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The Invisible Committee 


The Coming Insurrection 


semiotext(e) 
intervention 
series □ 1 






SEMIOTEXT(E) INTERVENTION SERIES 
© 2009 by The Invisible Committee 

Originally published as L’insurrection qui vient by Editions La 
Fabrique, Paris, 2007. 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, 
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, elec- 
tronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, 
without prior permission of the publisher. 

Published by Scmiotext(e) 

2007 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 427, Los Angeles, CA 90057 
www.semiotexte.com 

ISBN; 978-1-58435-080 -4 

Distributed by The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 

and London, England 

Printed in the United States of America 



The Invisible Committee 


The Coming Insurrection 


semiotext(e) 

intervention 
series □ 1 




The book you hold in your hands has become the princi- 
ple piece of evidence in an anti-terrorism case in France 
directed against nine hidividuals who were arrested on 
November 1 1, 2008, mostly in the village of Tamac. 
They have been accused of "criminal association for the 
purposes of terrorist activity " on the grounds that they 
were to have participated in the sabotage of overhead 
electrical lines on France’s national railways. Although 
only scant circumstantial evidence has been presented 
against the nine, the French Interior Minister has pub- 
lically associated them with the emergent threat of an 
“ ultra-left ” movement, taking care to single out this 
book, described as a "manual for terrorism," which they 
are accused of authoring. What follows is the text of the 
book preceded by the first statement of the Invisible 
Committee since the arrests. 


5 




Contents 


Introduction: A point of clarification 9 

From whatever angle... 23 

First Circle 29 

Second Circle 35 

Third Circle 43 

Fourth Circle 52 

Fifth Circle 63 

Sixth Circle 73 

Seventh Circle 85 

Get Going! 95 

Find Each Other 97 

Get Organized 103 

Insurrection 117 




Introduction 


A POINT OF CLARIFICATION 

Everyone agrees. It’s about to explode. It is acknowl- 
edged, with a serious and self-important look, in the 
corridors of the Assembly, just as yesterday it was 
repeated in the caf^s. There is a certain pleasure in 
calculating the risks. Already, we are presented with a 
detailed menu of preventive measures for securing 
the territory. The New Years festivities take a decisive 
turn — “Next year there’ll be no oysters, enjoy them 
while you can!” To prevent the celebrations from 
being totally eclipsed by the traditional disorder, 
36,000 cops and 16 helicopters are rushed out by 
Alliot-Marie 1 — the same clown who, during the high 
school demonstrations in December, tremulously 
watched for the slightest sign of a Greek contamina- 
tion, readying the police apparatus just in case. We 
can discern more clearly every day, beneath the reas- 
suring drone, the noise of preparations for open war. 
It’s impossible to ignore its cold and pragmatic 
implementation, no longer even bothering to present 
itself as an operation of pacification. 

The newspapers conscientiously draw up the list of 
causes for the sudden disquiet. There is the financial 


1. Michele Alliot-Marie, the French Interior Minister. 


9 



crisis, of course, with its booming unemployment, its 
share of hopelessness and of social plans, its Kernel 
and Madoff scandals. There is the failure of the educa- 
tional system, its dwindling production of workers and 
citizens, even with the children of the middle class as 
its raw material. There is the existence of a youth to 
which no political representation corresponds, a youth 
good for nothing but destroying the free bicycles that 
society so conscientiously put at their disposal. 

None of these worrisome subjects should appear 
insurmountable in an era whose predominant mode 
of government is precisely the management of crises. 
Unless we consider that what power is confronting is 
neither just another crisis, nor just a succession of 
chronic problems, of more or less anticipated 
bances, but a singular peril: that a form of 
has emerged, and positions have been taken up, that 
are no longer manageable. 

Those who everywhere make up this peril have to 
ask themselves more than the trifling questions 
about causes, or the probabilities of inevitable move- 
ments and confrontations. They need to ask how, for 
instance, does the Greek chaos resonate in the 
French situation? An uprising here cannot be the 
simple transposition of what happened over there. 
Global civil war still has its local specificities. In 
France a situation of generalized rioting would 
provoke an explosion of another tenor. 


10 / The Coming Insurrection 



The Greek rioters are faced with a weak state, while 
being able to take advantage of a strong popularity. 
One must not forget that it was against the Regime 
of the Colonels that, only thirty years ago, democracy 
reconstituted itself on the basis of a practice of polit- 
ical violence. This violence, whose memory is not so 
distant, still seems intuitive to most Greeks. Even the 
leaders of the socialist party have thrown a molotov or 
two in their youth. Yet classical politics is equipped 
with variants that know very well how to accommo- 
date these practices and to extend their ideological 
rubbish to the very heart of the riot. If the Greek 
battle wasn’t decided, and put down, in the streets — 
the police being visibly outflanked there — its because 
its neutralization was played out elsewhere. There is 
nothing more draining, nothing more fatal, than this 
classical politics, with its dried up rituals, its thinking 
without thought, its little closed world. 

In France, our most exalted socialist bureaucrats 
have never been anything other than shriveled husks 
filling up the halls of the Assembly. Here everything 
conspires to annihilate even the slightest form of 
political intensity. Which means that it is always 
possible to oppose the citizen to the delinquent in a 
quasi-linguistic operation that goes hand in hand with 
quasi-military operations. The riots of November 2005 
and, in a different context, the social movements in the 
autumn of 2007, have already provided several prece- 
dents. The image of right wing students in Nanterre 


hlroducl bn: A point of clarification / 1 1 



applauding as the police expelled their classmates 
offers a small glimpse of what the future holds in store. 

It goes without saying that the attachment of the 
French to the state. — the guarantor of universal values, 
the last rampart against the disaster — is a pathology 
that is difficult to undo. It’s above all a fiction that no 
longer knows how to carry on. Our governors them- 
selves increasingly consider it as a useless encumbrance 
because they, at least, take the conflict for what it is — 
militarily. They have no complex about sending in 
elite antiterrorist units to subdue riots, or to liberate 
a recycling center occupied by its workers. As the 
welfare state collapses, we see the emergence of a brute 
conflict between those who desire order and those 
who don’t. Everything that French politics has been 
able to deactivate is in the process of unleashing itself. 
It will never be able to process all that it has 
repressed. In the advanced degree of social decompo- 
sition, we can count on the coming movement to 
find the necessary breath of nihilism. Which will not 
mean that it won’t be exposed to other limits. 

Revolutionary movements do not spread by 
contamination but by resonance. Something that is 
constituted here resonates with the shock wave emitted 
by something constituted over there. A body that 
resonates does so according to its own mode. An 
insurrection is not like a plague or a forest fire — a linear 
process which spreads from place to place after an initial 
spark. It rather takes the shape of a music, whose focal 


12 / The Coming Insurreclion 



points, though dispersed in time and space, succeed in 
imposing the rhythm of their own vibrations, always 
taking on more density. To the point that any return 
to normal is no longer desirable or even imaginable. 

When we speak of Empire we name the mecha- 
nisms of power that preventively and surgically stifle 
any revolutionary potential in a situation. In this 
sense, Empire is not an enemy that confronts us 
head-on. It is a rhythm that imposes itself, a way of 
dispensing and dispersing reality. Less an order of the 
world than its sad, heavy and militaristic liquidation. 

What we mean by the party of insurgents is the 
sketching out of a completely other composition , an 
other side of reality, which from Greece to the French 
banlieues 2 is seeking its consistency. 

It is now publicly understood that crisis situations are 
so many opportunities for the restructuring of dom- 
ination. This is why Sarkozy can announce, without 
seeming to lie too much, that the financial crisis is 
“the end of a world,” and that 2009 will see France 
enter a new era. This charade of an economic crisis is 
supposed to be a novelty: we are supposed to be in 
the dawn of a new epoch where we will all join 
together in fighting inequality and global warming. 
But for our generation — which was born in the crisis 
and has known nothing but economic, financial, 


2. BanUeue French ghettoes, usually located in the suburban periphery. 


Introduction: A point of clarification / 13 



social and ecological crisis — this is rather difficult to 
accept. They won’t fool us again, with another round 
of "Now we start all over again” and “It’s just a question 
of tightening our belts for a little while.” To tell the 
truth, the disastrous unemployment figures no longer 
arouse any feeling in us. Crisis is a means of govern- 
ing. In a world that seems to hold together only 
through the infinite management of its own collapse. 

What this war is being fought over is not various 
ways of managing society, but irreducible and irrec- 
oncilable ideas of happiness and their worlds. We 
know it, and so do the powers that be. The militant 
remnants that observe us — always more numerous, 
always more identifiable — are tearing out their hair 
trying to fit us into little compartments in their little 
heads. They hold out their arms to us the better to 
suffocate us, with their failures, their paralysis, their 
stupid problematics. From elections to "transitions,” 
militants will never be anything other than that which 
distances us, each time a little farther, from the possi- 
bility of communism. Luckily we will accommodate 
neither treason nor deception for much longer. 

The past has given us far too many bad answers 
for us not to see that the mistakes were in the ques- 
tions themselves. There is no need to choose between 
the fetishism of spontaneity and organizational 
control; between the "come one, come all” of activist 
networks and the discipline of hierarchy; between 
acting desperately now and waiting desperately for 


14 / The Coming Insurrection 



later; between bracketing that which is to be lived 
and experimented in the name of a paradise that 
seems more and more like a hell the longer it is put 
off, and repeating, with a corpse-filled mouth, that 
planting carrots is enough to dispel this nightmare. 

Organizations are obstacles to organizing ourselves. 

In truth, there is no gap between what we are, what 
we do, and what we are becoming. Organizations — 
political or labor, fascist or anarchist — always begin by 
separating, practically, these aspects of existence. It’s 
then easy for them to present their idiotic formalism as 
the sole remedy to this separation. To organize is not to 
give a structure to weakness. It is above all to form 
bonds — bonds that are by no means neutral — terrible 
bonds. The degree of organization is measured by the 
intensity of sharing — material and spiritual. 

From now on, to materially organize for survival is 
to materially organize for attack. Everywhere, a new 
idea of communism is to be elaborated. In theshadows 
of bar rooms, in print shops, squats, farms, occupied 
gymnasiums, new complicities are to be born. These 
precious connivances must not be refused the neces- 
sary means for the deployment of their forces. 

Here lies the truly revolutionary potentiality of 
the present. The increasingly frequent skirmishes 
have this formidable quality; that they are always an 
occasion for complicities of this type, sometimes 
ephemeral, but sometimes also unbetrayable. When a 
few thousand young people find the determination 


htroduction: A point o( clarification / 1 5 



to assail this world, you’d have to be as stupid as a cop 
to seek out a financial trail, a leader, or a snitch. 

Two centuries of capitalism and market nihilism have 
brought us to the most extreme alienations — from our 
selves, from others, from worlds. The fiction of the 
individual has decomposed at the same speed that it 
was becoming real. Children of the metropolis, we offer 
this wager: that it’s in the most profound deprivation of 
existence, perpetually stifled, perpetually conjured 
away, that the possibility of communism resides. 

When all is said and done, it’s with an entire 
anthropology that we are at war. With the very idea 
of man. 

Communism then, as presupposition andzs, exper- 
iment. Sharing of a sensibility and elaboration of 
sharing. The uncovering of what is common and the 
building of a force. Communism as the matrix of a 
meticulous, audacious assault on domination. As a 
call and as a name for all worlds resisting imperial 
pacification, all solidarities irreducible to the reign of 
commodities, all friendships assuming the necessities 
of war. COMMUNISM. We know it’s a term to be used 
with caution. Not because, in the great parade of 
words, it may no longer be very fashionable. But 
because our worst enemies have used it, and continue 
to do so. We insist. Certain words are like battle- 
grounds: their meaning, revolutionary or reactionary, 
is a victory, to be torn from the jaws of struggle. 


16 / The Conning Insurrection 



Deserting classical politics means facing up to war, 
which is also situated on the terrain of language. Or 
rather, in the way that words, gestures and life are 
inseparably linked. If one puts so much effort into 
imprisoning as terrorists a few young communists who 
are supposed to have participated in publishing The 
Coming Insurrection, it is not because of a “thought 
crime,” but rather because they might embody a 
certain consistency between acts and thought. Some- 
thing which is rarely treated with leniency. 

What these people are accused of is not to have 
written a book, nor even to have physically attacked 
the sacrosanct flows that irrigate the metropolis. It’s 
that they might possibly have confronted these fl ows 
with the density of a political thought and position. 
That an act could have made sense according to 
another consistency of the world than the deserted 
one of Empire. Anti-terrorism claims to attack the 
possible future of a “criminal association.” But what 
is really being attacked is the future of the situation. 
The possibility that behind every grocer a few bad 
intentions are hiding, and behind every thought, the 
acts that it calls for. The possibility expressed by an 
idea of politics — anonymous but welcoming, conta- 
gious and uncontrollable — which cannot be relegated 
to the storeroom of freedom of expression. 

There remains scarcely any doubt that youth will 
be the first to savagely confront power. These last few 
years, from the riots of Spring 2001 in Algeria to 


Introduction: A point o( clarification / 1 7 



those of December 2008 in Greece, are nothing but 
a series of warning signs in this regard. Those who 30 
or 40 years ago revolted against their parents will not 
hesitate to reduce this to a conflict between genera- 
tions, if not to a predictable symptom of adolescence. 

The only future of a “generation” is to be the 
preceding one. On a route that leads inevitably to 
the cemetery. 

Tradition would have it that everything begins 
with a “social movement.” Especially at a moment 
when the left, which has still not finished decom- 
posing, hypocritically tries to regain its credibility in 
the streets. Except that in the streets it no longer has 
a monopoly. Just look at how, with each new mobi- 
lization of high school students — as with everything 
the left still dares to support — a rift continually 
widens between their whining demands and the level 
of violence and determination of the movement. 

From this rift we must make a trench. 

If we see a succession of movements hurrying one 
after the other, without leaving anything visible 
behind them, it must nonetheless be admitted that 
something persists. A powder trail links what in each 
event has not let itself be captured by the absurd 
temporality of the withdrawal of a new law, or some 
other pretext. In fits and starts, and in its own rhythm, 
we are seeing something like a force take shape. A force 
that does not serve its time but imposes it, silently. 

It is no longer a matter of foretelling the collapse 


18 / The Coming Insurrection 



or depicting the possibilities of joy. Whether it comes 
sooner or later, the point is to prepare for it. Its not a 
question of providing a schema for what an insurrec- 
tion should be, but of taking the possibility of an 
uprising for what it never should have ceased being: a 
vital impulse of youth as much as a popular wisdom. 
If one knows how to move, the absence of a schema is 
not an obstacle but an opportunity. For the insur- 
gents, it is the sole space that can guarantee the 
essential: keeping the initiative. What remains to be 
created, to be tended as one tends a fire, is a certain 
outlook, a certain tactical fever, which once it has 
emerged, even now, reveals itself as determinant — and 
a constant source of determination. Already certain 
questions have been revived that only yesterday may 
have seemed grotesque or outmoded; they need to be 
seized upon, not in order to respond to them defini- 
tively, but to make them live. Having posed them 
anew is not the least of the Greek uprising’s virtues: 

How does a situation of generalized rioting become 
an insurrectionary situation? What to do once the 
streets have been taken, once the police have been 
soundly defeated there? Do the parliaments still 
deserve to be attacked? What is the practical meaning 
of deposing power locally? How do we decide? How 
do we subsist! 

How do we find each other? 

— Invisible Committee, January 2009 


Introduction: A point ol clarification / 1 9 







From whatever angle you approach it, the present 
offers no way out. This is not the least of its virtues. 
From those who seek hope above all, it tears away 
every firm ground. Those who claim to have solu- 
tions are contradicted almost immediately. Everyone 
agrees that things can only get worse. “The future has 
no future” is the wisdom of an age that, for all its 
appearance of perfect normalcy, has reached the level 
of consciousness of the first punks. 

The sphere of political representation has come to a 
close. From left to right, it’s the same nothingness 
striking the pose of an emperor or a savior, the same 
sales assistants adjusting their discourse according to 
the findings of the latest surveys. Those who still vote 
seem to have no other intention than to desecrate the 
ballot box by voting as a pure act of protest. We’re 
beginning to suspect that it’s only against voting itself 
that people continue to vote. Nothing we’re being 
shown is adequate to the situation, not by far. In its 
very silence, the populace seems infinitely more 
mature than all these puppets bickering among 


23 



themselves about how to govern it. The ramblings of 
any Belleville chibani' contain more wisdom than all 
the declarations of our so-called leaders. The lid on 
the social kettle is shut triple-tight, and the pressure 
inside continues to build. From out of Argentina, 
the specter of Que Se Vayan Todos 2 is beginning to 
seriously haunt the ruling class. 

The flames of November 2005 still flicker in every- 
one’s minds. Those first joyous fires were the baptism 
of a decade full of promise. The media fable of “ ban - 
lieue vs. the Republic” may work, but what it gains in 
effectiveness it loses in truth. Fires were lit in the city 
centers, but this news was methodically suppressed. 
Whole streets in Barcelona burned in solidarity, but no 
one knew about it apart from the people living there. 
And it’s not even true that the country has stopped 
burning. Many different profiles can be found among 
the arrested, with little that unites them besides a 
hatred for existing society — not class, race, or even 
neighborhood. What was new wasn’t the “ banlieue 
revolt,” since that was already going on in the ’80s, but 
the break with its established forms. These assailants 
no longer listen to anybody, neither to their Big 

1 . Chibani is Arabic for old man, here referring to the old men who 
play backgammon in the cafes of Belleville, a largely immigrant 
neighborhood in Paris. 

2. They All Must Go! the chant of the 2001 Argentine rebellion. 


24 / The Coming Insurrection 



Brothers and Big Sisters, nor to the community organi- 
zations charged with overseeing the return to normal. 
No “SOS Racism’ 3 could sink its cancerous roots into 
this event, whose apparent conclusion can be credited 
only to fatigue, falsification and the media omerta . 4 
This whole series of nocturnal vandalisms and anony- 
mous attacks, this wordless destruction, has widened 
the breach between politics and the political. No one 
can honestly deny the obvious: this was an assault that 
made no demands, a threat without a message, and it 
had nothing to do with “politics.” One would have to 
be oblivious to the autonomous youth movements of 
the last 30 years not to see the purely political character 
of this resolute negation of politics. Like lost children 
we trashed the prized trinkets of a society that deserves 
no more respect than the monuments of Paris at the 
end of the Bloody Week 5 — and knows it. 

There will be no social solution to the present situa- 
tion. First, because the vague aggregate of social 
milieus, institutions, and individualized bubbles that 
is called, with a touch of antiphrasis, “society,” has no 


3. A French Anti Racist NGO set up by Francois Mitterand s Social 
ist Party in the ’80s. 

4. The mafia "code of silence”: absolutely no cooperation with state 
authorities or reliance on their services. 

5. The battle that crushed the Paris Commune of 1 871 , during which 
hundreds of buildings around Paris were torched by the communards. 


From whatever ariQ ife... / 25 



consistency. Second, because there’s no longer any 
language for common experience. And we cannot 
share wealth if we do not share a language. It took half 
a century of struggle around the Enlightenment to 
make the French Revolution possible, and a century 
of struggle around work to give birth to the fearsome 
“welfare state.” Struggles create the language in which 
a new order expresses itself. But there is nothing like 
that today. Europe is now a continent gone broke that 
shops secretly at discount stores and has to fly budget 
airlines if it wants to travel at all. No "problems” 
framed in social terms admit of a solution. The ques- 
tions of "pensions,” of "job security,” of "young peo- 
ple” and their “violence” can only be held in suspense 
while the situation these words serve to cover up is 
continually policed for signs of further unrest. 
Nothing can make it an attractive prospect to wipe 
the asses of pensioners for minimum wage. Those 
who have found less humiliation and more advantage 
in a life of crime than in sweeping floors will not turn 
in their weapons, and prison won’t teach them to love 
society. Cuts to their monthly pensions will under- 
mine the desperate pleasure-seeking of hordes of 
retirees, making them stew and splutter about the 
refusal to work among an ever larger segment of youth. 
And finally, no guaranteed income granted the day 
after a quasi-uprising will be able to lay the foundation 
of a new New Deal, a new pact, a new peace. The 
social feeling has already evaporated too much for that. 


26 / The Coming Insurrection 



As an attempted solution, the pressure to ensure 
that nothing happens , together with police surveil- 
lance of the territory, will only intensify. The 
unmanned drone that flew over Seine-Saint-Denis 6 
last July l4th — as the police later confirmed — pre- 
sents a much more vivid image of the future than all 
the fuzzy humanistic projections. That they were 
careful to assure us that the drone was unarmed gives 
us a clear indication of the road we’re headed down. 
The territory will be partitioned into ever more 
restricted zones. Highways built around the borders 
of “problem neighborhoods” already form invisible 
walls closing off those areas from the middle-class 
subdivisions. Whatever defenders of the Republic 
may think, the control of neighborhoods “by the 
community’ is manifestly the most effective means 
available. The purely metropolitan sections of the 
country, the main city centers, will go about their 
opulent lives in an ever more crafty, ever more 
sophisticated, ever more shimmering deconstruc- 
tion. They will illuminate the whole planet with 
their glaring neon lights, as the patrols of the BAC 7 
and private security companies (i.e. paramilitary 


6. Banlieue northeast of Paris, where, on October 27, 2005, two 
teenagers were killed as they fled the police, setting off the 2005 riots. 

7. Brigade Anti Criminalite plainclothes cops who act as an anti gang 
force in the tanlieues but also in demonstrations, often operating as a 
gang themselves in competition for territory and resources. 


From whatever angle. ..127 



units) proliferate under the umbrella of an increas- 
ingly shameless judicial protection. 

The impasse of the present, everywhere in evidence, 
is everywhere denied. There will be no end of psy- 
chologists, sociologists, and literary hacks applying 
themselves to the case, each with a specialized jargon 
from which the conclusions are especially absent. 
It’s enough to listen to the songs of the times — the 
asinine “alt-folk' where the petty bourgeoisie dissects 
the state of its soul, next to declarations of war from 
Mafia K’l Fry* — to know that a certain coexistence 
will end soon, that a decision is near. 

This book is signed in the name of an imaginary 
collective. Its contributors are not its authors. They 
were content merely to introduce a little order into 
the common-places of our time, collecting some of 
the murmurings around barroom tables and behind 
closed bedroom doors. They’ve done nothing more 
than lay down a few necessary truths, whose universal 
repression fills psychiatric hospitals with patients, 
and eyes with pain. They’ve made themselves scribes 
of the situation. It’s the privileged feature of radical 
circumstances that a rigorous application of logic leads 
to revolution. It’s enough just to say what is before 
our eyes and not to shrink from the conclusions. 


8. Popular French rap group. 


28 / The Coming Insurrection 



First Circle 


"I AM WHAT I AM" 


“I AM WHAT I AM.” This is marketing’s latest offering 
to the world, the final stage in the development of 
advertising, far beyond all the exhortations to be 
different, to be oneself and drink Pepsi. Decades of 
concepts in order to get where we are, to arrive at 
pure tautology. 1 = 1. He’s running on a treadmill in 
front of the mirror in his gym. She’s coming back 
from work behind the wheel of her Smart car. Will 
they meet? 

“I AM WHAT I AM.” My body belongs to me. I am 
me, you are you, and somethings wrong. Mass per- 
sonalization. Individualization of all conditions — 
life, work and misery. Diffuse schizophrenia. Ram- 
pant depression. Atomization into fine paranoiac 
particles. Hysterization of contact. The more I 
want to be me, the more I feel an emptiness. The 
more I express myself, the more I am drained. The 
more I run after myself, the more tired I get. We 
treat our Self like a boring box ofice. We’ve become 
our own representatives in a strange commerce, 
guarantors of a personalization that feels, in the end, 
a lot more like an amputation. We insure our selves 


29 



to the point of bankruptcy, with a more or less dis- 
guised clumsiness. 

Meanwhile, I manage. The quest for a self, my 
blog, my apartment, the latest fashionable crap, 
relationship dramas, who’s fucking who. .. whatever 
prosthesis it takes to hold onto an “I”! If “society 
hadn’t become such a definitive abstraction, then it 
would denote all the existential crutches that allow 
me to keep dragging on, the ensemble of dependen- 
cies I’ve contracted as the price of my identity. The 
handicapped are the model citizens of tomorrow. It’s 
not without foresight that the associations exploiting 
them today demand that they be granted a “subsis- 
tence income.” 

The injunction, everywhere, to “be someone” main- 
tains the pathological state that makes this society 
necessary. The injunction to be strong produces the 
very weakness by which it maintains itself, so that 
everything seems to take on a therapeutic character, 
even working, even love. All those “ How’s it goings?” 
that we exchange give the impression of a society 
composed of patients taking each other’s tempera- 
ture. Sociability is now made up of a thousand little 
niches, a thousand little refuges where you can take 
shelter. Where it’s always better than the bitter cold 
outside. Where everything’s false, since it’s all just a 
pretext for getting warmed up. Where nothing can 
happen since we’re all too busy shivering silently 


30/ The Comhg Insurrection 



together. Soon this society will only be held together 
by the mere tension of all the social atoms straining 
towards an illusory cure. It’s a power plant that runs 
its turbines on a gigantic reservoir of unwept tears, 
always on the verge of spilling over. 

“i AM WHAT I AM.” Never has domination found 
such an innocent-sounding slogan. The maintenance 
of the self in a permanent state of deterioration, in 
a chronic state of near- collapse, is the best- kept 
secret of the present order of things. The weak, 
depressed, self-critical, virtual self is essentially that 
endlessly adaptable subject required by the ceaseless 
innovation of production, the accelerated obsoles- 
cence of technologies, the constant overturning of 
social norms, and generalized flexibility. It is at the 
same time the most voracious consumer and, para- 
doxically, the most productive self, the one that will 
most eagerly and energetically throw itself into the 
slightest project, only to return later to its original 
larval state. 

“WHAT AM I,” then? Since childhood, I’ve been 
involved with flows of milk, smells, stories, sounds, 
emotions, nursery rhymes, substances, gestures, 
ideas, impressions, gazes, songs, and foods. What am 
I? Tied in every way to places, sufferings, ancestors, 
friends, loves, events, languages, memories, to all 
kinds of things that obviously are not me. Everything 
that attaches me to the world, all the links that 


First Circle / 31 



consti tute me, all the forces that compose me don’t 
form an identity, a thing displayable on cue, but a 
singular, shared, living existence, from which 
emerges — at certain times and places — that being 
which says “I.” Our feeling of inconsistency is simply 
the consequence of this foolish belief in the perma- 
nence of the self and of the little care we give to 
what makes us what we are. 

It’s dizzying to see Reeboks “I AM WHAT I AM” 
enthroned atop a Shanghai skyscraper. The West 
everywhere rolls out its favorite Trojan horse: the 
exasperating antimony between the self and the 
world, the individual and the group, between attach- 
ment and freedom. Freedom isn’t the act of shedding 
our attachments, but the practical capacity to work 
on them, to move around in their space, to form or 
dissolve them. The family only exists as a family, that 
is, as a hell, for those who’ve quit trying to alter its 
debilitating mechanisms, or don’t know how to. The 
freedom to uproot oneself has always been a phan- 
tasmic freedom. We can’t rid ourselves of what binds 
us without at the same time losing the very thing to 
which our forces would be applied. 

“I AM WHAT I AM,” then, is not simply a lie, a 
simple advertising campaign, but a military cam- 
paign, a war cry directed against everything that 
exists betiveen beings, against everything that circu- 
lates indistinctly, everything that invisibly links 
them, everything that prevents complete desolation. 


32 / Tire Coming Insurrection 



against everything that makes us exist , and ensures 
that the whole world doesn’t everywhere have the 
look and feel of a highway, an amusement park or a 
new town: pure boredom, passionless but well- 
ordered, empty, frozen space, where nothing moves 
apart from registered bodies, molecular automobiles, 
and ideal commodities. 

France wouldn’t be the land of anxiety pills that it’s 
become, the paradise of anti-depressants, the Mecca 
of neurosis, if it weren’t also the European champion 
of hourly productivity. Sickness, fatigue, depression, 
can be seen as the individual symptoms of what 
needs to be cured. They contribute to the mainte- 
nance of the existing order, to my docile adjustment 
to idiotic norms, and to the modernization of my 
crutches. They specify the selection of my oppor- 
tune, compliant, and productive tendencies, as well 
as those that must be gently discarded. “It’s never too 
late to change, you know.” But taken as facts , my 
failings can also lead to the dismantling of the 
hypothesis of the self. They then become acts of 
resistance in the current war. They become a rebellion 
and a force against everything that conspires to 
normalize us, to amputate us. The self is not some 
thing within us that is in a state of crisis; it is the form 
they mean to stamp upon us. They want to make our 
self something sharply defined, separate, assessable 
in terms of qualities, controllable, when in fact we 


First Circle / 33 



are creatures among creatures, singularities among 
similars, living flesh weaving the flesh of the world. 
Contrary to what has been repeated to us since 
childhood, intelligence doesn’t mean knowing how 
to adapt — or if that is a kind of intelligence, it’s the 
intelligence of slaves. Our inadaptability, our fatigue, 
are only problems from the standpoint of what aims 
to subjugate us. They indicate rather a starting 
point, a meeting point, for new complicities. They 
reveal a landscape more damaged, but infinitely 
more sharable than all the fantasy lands this society 
maintains for its purposes. 

We are not depressed; were on strike. For those 
who refuse to manage themselves, “depression” is 
not a state but a passage, a bowing out, a sidestep 
towards a political disaffiliation. From then on 
medication and the police are the only possible 
forms of conciliation. This is why the present society 
doesn’t hesitate to impose Ritalin on its overactive 
children, or to strap people into lifelong depen- 
dence on pharmaceuticals, and why it claims to be 
able to detect “behavioral disorders” at age three. 
Because everywhere the hypothesis of the self is 
beginning to crack. 


34 / The Coming Insurrection 



Second Circle 


“ENTERTAINMENT IS A VITAL NEED” 


A government that declares a state of emergency 
against fifteen-year-old kids. A country that takes 
refuge in the arms of a football team. A cop in a 
hospital bed, complaining about being the victim 
of “assault.” A prefect issuing a decree against the 
building of tree houses. Two ten year olds, in 
Chelles, charged with burning down a video game 
arcade. Our era excels in a certain situational absur- 
dity that it never seems to recognize. The truth is 
that the plaintive, indignant tones of the news media 
are unable to stifle the burst of laughter that greets 
these headlines. 

A burst of laughter is the only appropriate 
response to all the serious “questions” posed by news 
analysts. To take the most banal: there is no “immi- 
gration question.” Who still grows up where they 
were born? Who lives where they grew up? Who 
works where they live? Who lives where their ancestors 
did? And to whom do the children of this era belong, 
to television or their parents? The truth is that we 
have been completely torn from any belonging, we 
are no longer from anywhere, and the result, in 


35 



addition to a new disposition to tourism, is an 
undeniable suffering. Our history is one of colo- 
nizations, of migrations, of wars, of exiles, of the 
destruction of all roots. It’s the story of everything 
that has made us foreigners in this world, guests in 
our own family. We have been expropriated from 
our own language by education, from our songs by 
reality TV contests, from our flesh by mass pornog- 
raphy, from our city by the police, and from our 
friends by wage-labor. To this we should add, in 
France, the relentless, age-old work of individual- 
ization by the power of the state, that classifies, 
compares, disciplines and separates its subjects 
starting from a very young age, that instinctively 
grinds down any solidarities that escape it until 
nothing remains except citizenship — a pure, phan- 
tasmic sense of belonging to the Republic. The 
Frenchman, more than anyone else, is the embodi- 
ment of the dispossessed, the destitute. His hatred 
of foreigners is of a piece with his hatred of himself as 
a foreigner. The mixture of jealousy and fear he feels 
toward the “cites”' expresses nothing but his resent- 
ment for all he has lost. He can’t help envying these 
so-called "problem” neighborhoods where there still 
persists a bit of communal life, a few links between 
beings, some solidarities not controlled by the state, 
an informal economy, an organization that is not yet 


1. A housing project, typically in impoverished areas like the banlieue. i. 


36 / The Coming Insurrection 



detached from those who organize themselves. We 
have arrived at a point of privation where the only 
way to feel French is to curse the immigrants and 
those who are more visibly foreign. In this country, the 
immigrants assume a curious position of sovereignty: 
if they weren’t here, the French might stop existing. 

France is a product of its schools, and not the 
inverse. We live in an excessively scholastic country, 
where one remembers taking the baccalaureat exam 
as a defining moment. Where retired people still tell 
you about their failure, forty years earlier, in such 
and such an exam, and how it screwed up their 
whole career, their whole life. For a century and a 
half, the national school system has been producing 
a type of state subjectivity that stands out among all 
others. People who accept competition provided the 
playing field is level. Who expect in life that each 
person be rewarded as in a contest, according to 
their merit. Who always ask permission before taking. 
Who silently respect culture, the rules, and those 
with the best grades. Even their attachment to their 
great critical intellectuals and their rejection of 
capitalism are stamped by this love of school. It’s 
this construction of subjectivities by the state that is 
breaking down, every day a little more, with the 
decline of the scholarly institutions. The reappear- 
ance, over the past twenty years, of a school and a 
culture of the street, in competition with the school 


Second Circle / 37 



of the Republic and its cardboard culture, is the most 
deepest trauma that French universalism is presently 
undergoing. On this point, there is no disagreement 
between the extreme right and the most virulent left. 
The name Jules Ferry- — Minister of Thiers during the 
crushing of the Commune and theoretician of colo- 
nization — should be enough however to render this 
institution suspect. 2 

When we see teachers from some “citizens’ vigi- 
lance committee” come on the evening news to 
whine about their school being burned down, we 
remember how many times, as children, we dreamed 
of doing exactly this. When we hear a leftist intel- 
lectual venting about the barbarism of groups of kids 
harassing passersby in the street, shoplifting, burning 
cars, and playing cat and mouse with riot police, we 
remember what they said about the greasers in the 
’50s or, better, the apaches in the “Belle Epoque” 
“The generic name apaches ,” writes a judge at the 
Seine tribunal in 1907, “has for the past few years 
been a way of labeling all dangerous individuals, 
enemies of society, without nation or family, deserters 
of all duties, ready for the most audacious confronta- 
tions, and for any sort of attack on persons and 
properties.” These gangs who flee work, who adopt 


2. The Ferry laws — founding France s secular and republican system 
of education were named after Jules Ferry who initially proposed 
them in 1881. 


38/ The Coming Insuitection 



the names of their neighborhoods, and confront the 
police are the nightmare of the good, individualized 
French citizen: they embody everything he has 
renounced, all the possible joy he will never experi- 
ence. There is something impertinent about existing 
in a country where a child singing as she pleases is 
inevitably silenced with a “Stop, you’re going to stir 
things up,” where scholastic castration unleashes 
floods of well-mannered employees. The aura that 
persists around Mesrine 3 has less to do with his 
uprightness and his audacity than with the fact that 
he took it upon himself to enact vengeance on what 
we should all avenge. Or rather, on what we should 
avenge directly, when instead we continue to hesitate 
and defer endlessly. Because there is no doubt that in 
a thousand imperceptible and undercover ways, in all 
sorts of slanderous remarks, in every spiteful little 
expression and venomous politeness, the Frenchman 
continues to avenge, permanently and against every- 
one, the fact that he’s resigned himself to being 
crushed. It was about time that Fuck the police\ 
replaced Yes sir, officer ! In this sense, the open hostility 
of certain gangs only expresses, in a slightly less 
muffled way, the poisonous atmosphere, the rotten 
spirit, the desire for a salvational destruction by 
which the country is consumed. 


3. A legendary French outlaw, 1936—1979. 


Second Circle / 39 



To call this population of strangers in the midst of 
which we live “society is such a usurpation that even 
sociologists wonder if they should abandon a con- 
cept that was, for a century, their bread and butter. 
Now they prefer the metaphor of a network to 
describe the connection of cybernetic solitudes, the 
intermeshing of weak interactions under names like 
“colleague,” “contact,” “buddy,” “acquaintance,” or 
“date.” Such networks sometimes condense into a 
milieu, where nothing is shared but codes, and 
where nothing is played out except the incessant 
recomposition of identity. 

It would be a waste of time to detail all that is mori- 
bund in existing social relations. They say the family 
is coming back, the couple is coming back. But the 
family that’s coming back is not the same one that 
went away. Its return is nothing but a deepening of 
the prevailing separation that it serves to mask, 
becoming what it is through this masquerade. 
Everyone can testify to the doses of sadness con- 
densed from year to year in family gatherings, the 
forced smiles, the awkwardness of seeing everyone 
pretending in vain, the feeling that a corpse is lying 
there on the table, and everyone acting as though it 
were nothing. From flirtation to divorce, from 
cohabitation to stepfamilies, everyone feels the inanity 
of the sad family nucleus, but most seem to believe 
that it would be sadder still to give it up. The family is 


40 / The Coming Insurrection 



no longer so much the suffocation of maternal con- 
trol or the patriarchy of beatings as it is this infantile 
abandon to a fuzzy dependency, where everything is 
familiar, this carefree moment in the face of a world 
that nobody can deny is breaking down, a world 
where “becoming self-sufficient” is a euphemism for 
“finding a boss.” They want to use the “familiarity’ of 
the biological family as an excuse to undermine 
anything that burns passionately within us and, 
under the pretext that they raised us, make us 
renounce the possibility of growing up, as well as 
everything that is serious in childhood. We need to 
guard against such corrosion. 

The couple is like the final stage of the great 
social debacle. It’s the oasis in the middle of the 
human desert. Under the auspices of “intimacy,” 
we come to it looking for everything that has so 
obviously deserted contemporary social relations: 
warmth, simplicity, truth, a life without theater or 
spectator. But once the romantic enchantment has 
passed, “intimacy’ strips itself bare: it is itself a 
social invention, it speaks the language of glamour 
magazines and psychology; like everything else, it 
is bolstered with strategies to the point of nausea. 
There is no more truth here than elsewhere; here too 
lies and the laws of estrangement dominate. And 
when, by good fortune, one discovers this truth, it 
demands a sharing that belies the very form of the 
couple. What allows beings to love each other is also 


Second Circle/ 41 



what makes them lovable, and ruins the utopia of 
autism-for-two. 

In reality, the decomposition of all social forms is 
a blessing. It is for us the ideal condition for a wild, 
massive experimentation with new arrangements, 
new fidelities. The famous “parental resignation” has 
imposed on us a confrontation with the world that 
demands a precocious lucidity, and foreshadows lovely 
revolts to come. In the death of the couple, we see the 
birth of troubling forms of collective affectivity, now 
that sex is all used up and masculinity and femininity 
parade around in such moth-eaten clothes, now that 
three decades of non-stop pornographic innovation 
have exhausted all the allure of transgression and 
liberation. We count on making that which is 
unconditional in relationships the armor of a political 
solidarity as impenetrable to state interference as a 
gypsy camp. There is no reason that the inter- 
minable subsidies that numerous relatives are 
compelled to offload onto their proletarianized 
progeny can’t become a form of patronage in favor of 
social subversion. “Becoming autonomous,” could 
just as easily mean learning to fight in the street, to 
occupy empty houses, to cease working, to love each 
other madly, and to shoplift. 


42 / The Coming Insurrection 



Third Circle 


"LIFE, HEALTH AND LOVE ARE PRECARIOUS- 
WHY SHOULD WORK BE AN EXCEPTION?” 


No question is more confused, in France, than the 
question of work. No relation is more disfigured than 
the one between the French and work. Go to 
Andalusia, to Algeria, to Naples. They despise work, 
profoundly. Go to Germany, to the United States, to 
Japan. They revere work. Things are changing, it’s true. 
There are plenty of otaku in Japan , fiohe Arbeitslose in 
Germany and workaholics in Andalusia. But for the 
time being these are only curiosities. In France, we get 
down on all fours to climb the ladders of hierarchy, but 
privately flatter ourselves that we don’t really give a 
shit. We stay at work until ten o’clock in the evening 
when we’re swamped, but we’ve never had any scruples 
aboutstealing office supplies here and there, or carting 
off the inventory in order to resell it later. We hate 
bosses, but we want to be employed at any cost. To 
have a job is an honor, yet working is a sign of servility. 
In short: the perfect clinical illustration of hysteria. 
We love while hating, we hate while loving. And we 
all know the stupor and confusion that strike the 
hysteric when he loses his victim — his master. More 
often than not, he doesn’t get over it. 


43 



This neurosis is the basis on which successive 
governments could declare war on joblessness, 
claiming to wage an “employment battle” while ex- 
managers camped with their cell phones in Red 
Cross shelters along the banks of the Seine. While 
the Department of Labor was massively manipulating 
its statistics in order to bring unemployment num- 
bers below two million. While welfare checks and 
drug dealing were the only guarantees, as the French 
state has recognized, against the possibility of a 
social explosion at any moment. It’s the psychic 
economy of the French as much as the political 
stability of the country that is at stake in the main- 
tenance of the workerist fiction. 

Excuse us if we don’t give a fuck. 

We belong to a generation that lives very well in 
this fiction. That has never counted on either a pen- 
sion or the right to work, let alone rights at work. 
That isn’t even “precarious,” as the most advanced 
factions of the militant left like to theorize, because 
to be precarious is still to define oneself in relation to 
the sphere of work, that is, to its decomposition. We 
accept the necessity of finding money, by whatever 
means, because it is currently impossible to do with- 
out it, but we reject the necessity of working. Besides, 
we don’t work anymore: we do our time. Business is 
not a place where we exist, it’s a place we pass 
through. We aren’t cynical, we are just unwilling to 
be deceived. All these discourses on motivation, 


44 / The Coming Insurreclbn 



quality and personal investment pass us by, to the 
great dismay of personnel managers. They say we are 
disappointed by business, that it failed to honor our 
parents’ loyalty, that it let them go too quickly. They 
are lying. To be disappointed, one must have hoped 
for something. And we have never hoped for any- 
thing from business: we see it for what it is and for 
what it has always been, a fool’s game of varying 
degrees of comfort. With regard to our parents, our 
only regret is that they fell into the trap, at least the 
ones who believed. 

The sentimental confusion that surrounds the ques- 
tion of work can be explained thus: the notion of 
work has always included two contradictory dimen- 
sions-. a dimension of exploitation and a dimension 
of participation. Exploitation of individual and 
collective labor power through the private or social 
appropriation of surplus value; participation in a 
common effort through the relations linking 
those who cooperate in the universe of produc- 
tion. These two dimensions are perversely confused 
in the notion of work, which explains workers’ 
indifference, at the end of the day, to both Marxist 
rhetoric — which denies the dimension of participa- 
tion — and managerial rhetoric — which denies the 
dimension of exploitation. Hence the ambivalence 
of the relation of work, which is shameful insofar as 
it makes us strangers to what we are doing, and — at 


Third Circle / 45 



the same time — adored, insofar as a part of our- 
selves is brought into play. The disaster has already 
occurred: it resides in everything that had to be 
destroyed, in all those who had to be uprooted, in 
order for work toendupas the only way of existing. 
The horror of work is less in the work itself than in 
the methodical ravaging, for centuries, of all that 
isn’t work: the familiarities of one’s neighborhood 
and trade, of one’s village, of struggle, of kinship, 
our attachment to places, to beings, to the seasons, 
to ways of doing and speaking. 

Here lies the present paradox: work has totally 
triumphed over all other ways of existing, as the same 
time as workers have become superfluous. Gains in 
productivity, outsourcing, mechanization, automated 
and digital production have so progressed that they 
have almost reduced to zero the quantity of living 
labor necessary in the manufacture of any product. 
We are living the paradox of a society of workers 
without work, where entertainment, consumption 
and leisure only underscore the lack from which they 
are supposed to distract us. The mine at Carmaux, 
famous for a century of violent strikes, has now been 
converted into Cape Discovery. It’s an entertainment 
“multiplex” for skateboarding and biking, distin- 
guished by a “Mining Museum’ in which methane 
blasts are simulated for vacationers. 

In corporations, work is divided in an increasingly 
visible way into highly skilled positions of research, 


46 / The Coming Insurrection 



conception, control, coordination and communica- 
tion which deploy all the knowledge necessary for 
the new, cybernetic production process, and 
unskilled positions for the maintenance and moni- 
tering of this process. The first are few in number, 
very well paid and thus so coveted that the minority 
who occupy these positions will do anything to 
avoid losing them. They and their work are effec- 
tively bound in one anxious embrace. Managers, 
scientists, lobbyists, researchers, programmers, 
developers, consultants and engineers, literally never 
stop working. Even their sex lives serve to augment 
productivity. A Human Resources philosopher 
writes, " [t]he most creative businesses are the ones 
with the greatest number of intimate relations.” 
“Business associates,” a Daimler-Benz Human 
Resources Manager confirms, “are an important part 
of the business’s capital [...] Their motivation, their 
know-how, their capacity to innovate and their 
attention to clients’ desires constitute the raw mate- 
rial of innovative services [...] Their behavior, their 
social and emotional competence, are a growing 
factor in the evaluation of their work [. . .] This will 
no longer be evaluated in terms of number of hours 
on the job, but on the basis of objectives attained 
and quality of results. They are entrepreneurs.” 

The series of tasks that can’t be delegated to 
automation form a nebulous cluster of positions that, 
because they cannot be occupied by machines, are 


Third Circle / 47 



occupied by any old human — warehousemen, stock 
people, assembly line workers, seasonal workers, etc. 
This flexible, undifferentiated workforce that moves 
from one task to the next and never stays long in a 
business can no longer even consolidate itself as a 
force, being outside the center of the production 
process and employed to plug the holes of what has 
not yet been mechanized, as if pulverized in a multi- 
tude of interstices. The temp is the figure of the 
worker who is no longer a worker, who no longer has 
a trade — but only abilities that he sells where he can— 
and whose veiy availability is also a kind of work. 

On the margins of this workforce that is effective 
and necessary for the functioning of the machine, is 
a growing majority that has become superfluous, 
that is certainly useful to the flow of production but 
not much else, which introduces the risk that, in its 
idleness, it will set about sabotaging the machine. 
The menace of a general demobilization is the 
specter that haunts the present system of produc- 
tion. Not everybody responds to the question "Why 
work?” in the same way as this ex-welfare recipient: 
"For my well-being. I have to keep myself busy.” 
There is a serious risk that we will end up finding a 
good use for our very idleness. This floating population 
must somehow be kept occupied. But to this day 
they have not found a better disciplinary method 
than wages. It’s therefore necessary to pursue the 


48 / The Coming Insurrection 



dismantling of "social gains” so that the most rest- 
less ones, those who will only surrender when faced 
with the alternative of dying of hunger or stagnating 
in jail, are lured back to the bosom of wage-labor. 
The burgeoning slave trade in "personal services” 
must continue: cleaning, catering, massage, domestic 
nursing, prostitution, tutoring, therapy, psycholog- 
ical aid, etc. This is accompanied by a continual 
raising of the standards of security, hygiene, control, 
and culture, and by an accelerated recycling of fashions, 
all of which establish the need for such services. In 
Rouen, we now have "human parking meters:” peo- 
ple who wait around on the street and deliver you 
your parking slip, and, if it’s raining, will even rent 
you an umbrella. 

The order of work was the order of a world. The evi- 
dence of its ruin is paralyzing to those who dread 
what will come after. Today work is tied less to the 
economic necessity of producing goods than to the 
political necessity of producing producers and con- 
sumers, and of preserving by any means necessary the 
order of work. Producing oneself is becoming the 
dominant occupation of a society where production 
no longer has an object: like a carpenter who’s been 
evicted from his shop and in desperation sets about 
hammering and sawing himself. All these young 
people smiling for their job interviews, who have 
their teeth whitened to give them an edge, who go to 


Third Circle / 49 



nightclubs to boost their company spirit, who learn 
English to advance their careers, who get divorced or 
married to move up the ladder, who take courses in 
leadership or practice “self-improvement” in order to 
better “manage conflicts” — “the most intimate ‘self- 
improvement’,” says one guru, “will lead to increased 
emotional stability, to smoother and more open rela- 
tionships, to sharper intellectual focus, and therefore 
to a better economic performance.” This swarming 
little crowd that waits impatiently to be hired while 
doing whatever it can to seem natural is the result of 
an attempt to rescue the order of work through an 
ethos of mobility. To be mobilized is to relate to work 
not as an activity but as a possibility. If the unem- 
ployed person removes his piercings, goes to the 
barber and keeps himself busy with “projects,” if he 
really works on his “employability,” as they say, it’s 
because this is how he demonstrates his mobility. 
Mobility is this slight detachment from the self, this 
minimal disconnection from what constitutes us, this 
condition of strangeness whereby the self can now be 
taken up as an object of work, and it now becomes 
possible to sell oneself rather than one’s labor power, 
to be remunerated not for what one does but for 
what one is, for our exquisite mastery of social codes, 
for our relational talents, for our smile and our way of 
presenting ourselves. This is the new standard of 
socialization. Mobility brings about a fusion of the 
two contradictory poles of work: here we participate 


50 / The Conning Insurreciion 



in our own exploitation, and all participation is 
exploited. Ideally, you are yourself a little business, 
your own boss, your own product. Whether one is 
working or not, it’s a question of generating contacts, 
abilities, networking, in short: “human capital.” The 
planetary injunction to mobilize at the slightest 
pretext — cancer, “terrorism,” an earthquake, the 
homeless — sums up the reigning powers’ determina- 
tion to maintain the reign of work beyond its physical 
disappearance. 

The present production apparatus is therefore, on 
the one hand, a gigantic machine for psychic and 
physical mobilization, for sucking the energy of 
humans that have become superfluous, and, on the 
other hand, a sorting machine that allocates survival 
to conpliant subjectivities and rejects all “problem 
individuals,” all those who embody another use of life 
and, in this way, resist the machine. On the one 
hand, ghosts are brought to life, and on the other, the 
living are left to die. This is the properly political 
function of the contemporary production apparatus. 

To organize beyond and against work, to collectively 
desert the regime of mobility, to demonstrate the 
existence of a vitality and a discipline precisely in 
demobilization is a crime for which a civilization on 
its luiees is not about to forgive us. In fact, though, 
it’s the only way to survive it. 


Third Circle / 51 



Fourth Circle 


"MORE SIMPLE, MORE FUN, MORE MOBILE, 
MORE SECURE!" 


We’ve heard enough about the “city” and the “coun- 
try,” and particularly about the supposed ancient 
opposition between the two. From up close or from 
afar, what surrounds us looks nothing like that: it is 
one single urban cloth, without form or order, a 
bleak zone, endless and undefined, a global continuum 
of museum-like hypercenters and natural parks, of 
enormous suburban housing developments and 
massive agricultural projects, industrial zones and 
subdivisions, country inns and trendy bars: the 
metropolis. Certainly the ancient city existed, as did 
the cities of medieval and modern times. But there is 
no such thing as a metropolitan city. All territory is 
subsumed by the metropolis. Everything occupies 
the same space, if not geographically then through 
the intermeshing of its networks. 

It’s because the city has finally disappeared that it 
has now become fetishized, as history. The factory 
buildings of Lille become concert halls. The rebuilt 
concrete core of Le Havre is now a UNESCO World 
Heritage sire. In Beijing, the hutongs surrounding 
the Forbidden City were demolished, replaced by 


52 



fake versions, placed a little farther out, on display for 
sightseers. In Troyes they paste half-timber facades 
onto cinderblock buildings, a type of pastiche that 
resembles the Victorian shops at Disneyland Paris 
more than anything else. The old historic centers, 
once hotbeds of revolutionary sedition, are now 
wisely integrated into the organizational diagram of 
the metropolis. They’ve been given over to tourism 
and conspicuous consumption. They are the fairy- 
tale commodity islands, propped up by their expos 
and decorations, and by force if necessary. The 
oppressive sentimentality of every “Christmas Village” 
is offset by ever more security guards and city 
patrols. Control has a wonderful way of integrating 
itself into the commodity landscape, showing its 
authoritarian face to anyone who wants to see it. 
It’s an age of fusions, of muzak, telescoping police 
batons and cotton candy. Equal parts police surveil- 
lance and enchantment! 

This taste for the “authentic,” and for the control 
that goes with it, accompanies the petty bourgeoisie 
in its colonization of working class neighborhoods. 
Pushed out of the city centers, they find on the 
frontiers the kind of “neighborhood feeling” they 
missed in the prefab houses of suburbia. By chasing 
out the poor people, the cars, and the immigrants, by 
making it tidy, by getting rid of all the germs, the 
petty bourgeoisie wipes out the very thing it came 
looking for. A police officer and a garbage man 


Fourth Circle / 53 



shake hands in a picture on a town billboard, and 
the slogan reads: “Montauban — Clean City.” 

The same sense of decency that obliges urbanists 
to stop speaking of the “city’ (which they destroyed) 
and instead to talk of the “urban,” should compel 
them also to drop “country” (since it no longer 
exists). The uprooted and stressed-out masses are 
instead shown a countryside, a vision of the past 
that’s easy to stage now that the country folk have 
been so depleted. It is a marketing campaign 
deployed on a “territory” in which everything must 
be valorized or reconstituted as national heritage. 
Everywhere it’s the same chilling void, reaching into 
even the most remote and rustic corners. 

The metropolis is this simultaneous death of city 
and country. It is the crossroads where all the petty 
bourgeois come together, in the middle of this 
middle class that stretches out indefinitely, as much 
a result of rural flight as of urban sprawl. To cover 
the planet with glass would fit perfectly the cynicism 
of contemporary architecture. A school, a hospital, 
or a media center are all variations on the same 
theme: transparency, neutrality, uniformity. These 
massive, fluid buildings are conceived without any 
need to know what they will house. They could be 
here as much as anywhere else. What to do with all 
the office towers at La Defense in Paris, the apart- 
ment blocks of Lyon’s La Part Dieu, or the shopping 
complexes of EuraLille? The expression "flambant 


54 / The Coming Insurrection 



neuf ” l perfectly captures their destiny. A Scottish 
traveler testifies to the unique attraction of the 
power of fire, speaking after rebels had burned the 
H6tel de Ville in Paris in May, 1871: “Never could I 
have imagined anything so beautiful. It’s superb. I 
won’t deny that the people of the Commune are 
frightful rogues. But what artists! And they were not 
even aware of their own masterpiece! [...] I have 
seen the ruins of Amalfi bathed in the azure swells of 
the Mediterranean, and the ruins of the Tung-hoor 
temples in Punjab. I’ve seen Rome and many other 
things. But nothing can compare to what I feasted 
my eyes on tonight.” 

There still remain some fragments of the city and 
some traces of the country caught up in the metro- 
politan mesh. But vitality has taken up quarters in 
the so-called “problem” neighborhoods. It’s a paradox 
that the places thought to be the most uninhabitable 
turn out to be the only ones still in some way 
inhabited. An old squatted shack still feels more 
lived in than the so-called luxury apartments where 
it is only possible to set down the furniture and get 
the decor just right while waiting for the next 
move. Within many of today’s megalopolises, the 
shantytowns are the last living and livable areas, and 


1. “ flambant neuf - — literally, “flaming new” — is the Flench equivalent 
of the English “brand new.” 


Fourth Circle I 55 



also, of course, the most deadly. They are the flip- 
side of the electronic decor of the global metropolis. 
The dormitory towers in the suburbs north of Paris, 
abandoned by a petty bourgeoisie that went off 
hunting for swimming pools, have been brought 
back to life by mass unemployment and now radiate 
more energy than the Latin Quarter. In words as 
much as fire. 

The conflagration of November 2005 was not a 
result of extreme dispossession, as it is often por- 
trayed. It was, on the contrary, a complete possession 
of a territory. People can burn cars because they are 
pissed off, but to keep the riots going for a month, 
while keeping the police in check — to do that you 
have to know how to organize, you have to establish 
complicities, you have to know the terrain perfectly, 
and share a common language and a common 
enemy. Mile after mile and week after week, the fire 
spread. New blazes responded to the original ones, 
appearing where they were least expected. The 
grapevine can’t be wiretapped. 

The metropolis is a terrain of constant low-intensity 
conflict, in which the taking of Basra, Mogadishu, or 
Nablus mark points of culmination. For a long time, 
the city was a place for the military to avoid, or if 
anything, to besiege; but the metropolis is perfectly 
compatible with war. Armed conflict is only a 
moment in its constant reconfiguration. The battles 


56/ The Coming Insurrection 



conducted by the great powers resemble a kind of 
never-ending police campaign in the black holes of 
the metropolis, "whether in Burkina Faso, in the 
South Bronx, in Kamagasaki, in Chiapas, or in La 
Courneuve.” No longer undertaken in view of victory 
or peace, or even the re-establishment of order, such 
“interventions” continue a security operation that is 
always already in progress. War is no longer a distinct 
event in time, but instead diffracts into a series of 
micro-operations, by both military and police, to 
ensure security. 

The police and the army are evolving in parallel 
and in lock-step. A criminologist requests that the 
national riot police reorganize itself into small, pro- 
fessionalized, mobile units. The military academy, 
cradle of disciplinary methods, is rethinking its own 
hierarchical organization. For his infantry battalion 
a NATO officer employs a “participatory method 
that involves everyone in the analysis, preparation, 
execution, and evaluation of an action. The plan is 
considered and reconsidered for days, right through 
the training phase and according to the latest intel- 
ligence [...] There is nothing like group planning 
for building team cohesion and morale.” 

The armed forces don’t simply adapt themselves 
to the metropolis, they produce it. Thus, since the 
battle of Nablus, Israeli soldiers have become interior 
designers. Forced by Palestinian guerrillas to aban- 
don the streets, which had become too dangerous, 


Fourth Circle / 57 



they learned to advance vertically and horizontally 
into the heart of the urban architecture, poking 
holes in walls and ceilings in order to move 
through them. An officer in the Israel Defense 
Forces, and a graduate in philosophy, explains: "the 
enemy interprets space in a traditional, classical 
manner, and I do not want to obey this interpreta- 
tion and fall into his traps. [...] I want to surprise 
him! This is the essence of war. I need to win [...] 
This is why we opted for the methodology of moving 
through walls [...] Like a worm that eats its way 
forward.” Urban space is more than just the theater 
of confrontation, it is also the means. This echoes 
the advice of Blanqui who recommended (in this 
case for the party of insurrection) that the future 
insurgents of Paris take over the houses on the bar- 
ricaded streets to protect their positions, that they 
should bore holes in the walls to allow passage 
between houses, break down the ground floor stair- 
wells and poke holes in the ceilings to defend 
themselves against potential attackers, rip out the 
doors and use them to barricade the windows, and 
turn each floor into a gun turret. 

The metropolis is not just this urban pile-up, this 
final collision between city and country. It is also a 
flow of beings and things, a current that runs through 
fiber-optic networks, through high-speed train lines, 
satellites, and video surveillance cameras, making 


58 / The Coming Insurrection 



sure that this world keeps running straight to its ruin. 
It is a current that would like to drag everything 
along in its hopeless mobility, to mobilize each and 
every one of us. Where information pummels us like 
some kind of hostile force. Where the only thing left 
to do is run. Where it becomes hard to wait, even for 
the umpteenth subway train. 

With the proliferation of means of movement 
and communication, and with the lure of always 
being elsewhere, we are continuously torn from the 
here and now. Hop on an intercity or commuter 
train, pick up a telephone — in order to be already 
gone. Such mobility only ever means uprootedness, 
isolation, exile. It would be insufferable if it weren’t 
always the mobility of a private space , of a portable 
interior. The private bubble doesn’t burst, it floats 
around. The process of cocooning is not going 
away, it is merely being put into motion. From a 
train station, to an office park, to a commercial 
bank, from one hotel to another, there is everywhere 
a foreignness, a feeling so banal and so habitual it 
becomes the last form of familiarity. Metropolitan 
excess is this capricious mixing of definite moods, 
indefinitely recombined. The city centers of the 
metropolis are not clones of themselves, but offer 
instead their own auras; we glide from one to the 
next, selecting this one and rejecting that one, to 
the tune of a kind of existential shopping trip 
among different styles of bars, people, designs, or 


Fourth Circle / 59 



playlists. “With my mp3 player, Tm the master of 
my world.” To cope with the uniformity that sur- 
rounds us, our only option is to constantly renovate 
our own interior world, like a child who constructs 
the same little house over and over again, or like 
Robinson Crusoe reproducing his shopkeepers 
universe on a desert island — yet our desert island 
is civilization itself) and there are billions of us 
continually washing up on it. 

It is precisely due to this architect uns of flows that 
the metropolis is one of the most vulnerable human 
arrangements that has ever existed. Supple, subtle, 
but vulnerable. A brutal shutting down of borders to 
fend off a raging epidemic, a sudden interruption of 
supply lines, organized blockades of the axes of 
communication — and the whole facade crumbles, 
a facade that can no longer mask the scenes of 
carnage haunting it from morning to night. The 
world would not be moving so fast if it didn’t have 
toconstantly outrun its own collapse. 

The metropolis aims to shelter itself from 
inevitable malfunction via its network structure, via 
its entire technological infrastructure of nodes and 
connections, its decentralized architecture. The 
internet is said to be capable of surviving a nuclear 
attack. Permanent control of the flow of informa- 
tion, people and products makes the mobility of the 
metropolis secure, while its’ tracking systems ensure 
that no shipping containers get lost, that not a single 


SO / The Coring Insirredion 



dollar is stolen in any transaction, and that no ter- 
lorist ends up on an airplane. Thanks to an RFID 
chip, a biometric passport, a DNA profile. 

But the metropolis also produces the means of its 
own destruction. An American security expert 
explains the deieat in Iraq as a result of the guerrillas' 
ability to take advantage of new ways of communi- 
cating. The US invasion didn’t so much import 
democracy to Iraq as it did cybernetic networks. 
They broughtwith them one of the weapons of their 
own defeat The proliferation of mobile phones and 
internet access points gave the guerrillas newfound 
ways to self-organize, and allowed them to become 
such elusive targets. 

Every network has its weak points, the nodes that 
must be undone in oiderto interrupt circulation, to 
unwind die web. The last great European electrical 
blackout proved it: a single incident with a high- 
voltage wire and a good part of the continent was 
plunged into darkness. In order for something to rise 
up in the midst of the metropolis and open up other 
possibilities, the first act must be to interrupt its 
perpetuvm mobile. That is what the Thai rebels 
understood when they knocked out electrical sta- 
tions. That is what the French anti-CPE 1 protestors 


2. A 2006 movanenr in Fiance, principally of university and high 
school students, against a new employment law {CaBrM Jxrm&Tt 
onhmdt CPE) penniainglsssauie job contracts (hr young people 


Foutri C 3 rcte/ 61 



understood in 2006 when they shut down the uni- 
versities with a view toward shutting down the entire 
economy. That is what the American longshoremen 
understood when they struck in October 2002 in 
support of three hundred jobs, blocking the main 
ports on the West Coast for ten days. The American 
economy is so dependent on goods coming from 
Asia that the cost of the blockade was over a billion 
dollars per day. With ten thousand people, the 
largest economic power in the world can be brought 
to its knees. According to certain “experts,” if the 
action had lasted another month, it would have 
produced “a recession in the United States and an 
economic nightmare in Southeast Asia.” 


62 / Tiie Coming Insurrection 



Fifth Circle 


“FEWER POSSESSIONS, MORE CONNECTIONS!" 


Thirty years of “crisis,” mass unemployment and 
flagging growth, and they still want us to believe in the 
economy. Thirty years punctuated, it is true, by delu- 
sionary interludes: the interlude of 1981-83, when we 
were deluded into thinking a government of the left 
might make people better off; the “easy money ? inter- 
lude of 1986-89, when we were all supposed to be 
playing the market and getting rich; the internet inter- 
lude of 1998-2001, when everyone was going to get a 
virtual career through being well-connected, when a 
diverse but united France, cultured and multicultural, 
would bring home every World Cup. But here we are, 
we’ve drained our supply of delusions, we’ve hit rock 
bottom and are totally broke, or buried in debt. 

We have to see that the economy is not “in” crisis, 
the economy is itself the crisis. It’s not that there’s not 
enough work, it’s that there is too much of it. All things 
considered, it’s not the crisis that depresses us, it’s 
growth. We must admit that the litany of stock 
market prices moves us about as much as a Latin 
mass. Luckily for us, there are quite a few of us who 
have come to this conclusion. We’re not talking about 


63 



those who live off various scams, who deal in this or 
that, or who have been on welfare for the last ten 
years. Or of all those who no longer find their identity 
in their jobs and live for their time off. Nor are we 
talking about those who’ve been swept under the rug, 
the hidden ones who make do with the least, and yet 
outnumber the rest. All those struck by this strange 
mass detachment, adding to the ranks of retirees and 
the cynically overexploited flexible labor force. We’re 
not talking about them, although they too should, in 
one way or another, arrive at a similar conclusion. 

We are talking about all of the countries, indeed 
entire continents, that have lost faith in the economy, 
either because they’ve seen the IMF come and go 
amid crashes and enormous losses, or because they’ve 
gotten a taste of the World Bank. The soft crisis of 
vocation that the West is now experiencing is com- 
pletely absent in these places. What is happening in 
Guinea, Russia, Argentina and Bolivia is a violent 
and long-lasting debunking of this religion and its 
clergy. “What do you call a thousand IMF econo- 
mists lying at the bottom of the sea?” went the joke 
at the World Bank — “a good start.” A Russian joke: 
“Two economists meet. One asks the other: ‘You 
understand what’s happening?’ The other responds: 
‘Wait, I’ll explain it to you.’ ‘No, no,’ says the first, 
‘explaining is no problem, I’m an economist, too. 
What fm asking is: do you understand it?” Entire 
sections of this clergy pretend to be dissidents and to 


64 / The Coming Insurrection 



critique this religions dogma. The latest attempt to 
revive the so-called “science of the economy’ — a 
current that straight-facedly refers to itself as “post 
autistic economics” — makes a living from disman- 
tling the usurpations, sleights of hand and cooked 
books of a science whose only tangible function is to 
rattle the monstrance during the vociferations of the 
chiefs, giving their demands for submission a bit of 
ceremony, and ultimately doing what religions have 
always done: providing explanations. For the general 
misery becomes intolerable the moment it is shown 
for what it is, a thing without cause or reason. 

Nobody respects money anymore, neither those who 
have it nor those who don’t. When asked what they 
want to be some day, twenty percent of young 
Germans answer “artist.” Workis no longer endured 
as a given of the human condition. The accounting 
departments of corporations confess that they have 
no idea where value comes from. The market’s bad 
reputation would have done it in a decade ago if not 
for the bluster and fury, not to mention the deep 
pockets, of its apologists. It is common sense now to 
see progress as synonymous with disaster. In the world 
of the economic, everything is in flight, just like in 
the USSR under Andropov . 1 Anyone who has spent 


1. Andropov was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the 
Soviet Union from 1982 to 1984. 


Fifth Circle / 65 



a little time analyzing the final years of the USSR 
knows very well that the pleas for goodwill coming 
from our rulers, all of their fantasies about some 
future that has disappeared without a trace, all of 
their professions of faith in “reforming” this and that, 
are just the first fissures in the structure of the wall. 
The collapse of the socialist bloc was in no way a 
victory of capitalism; it was merely the breakdown of 
one of the forms capitalism takes. Besides, the demise 
of the USSR did not come about because a people 
revolted, but because the nomenklatura was under- 
going a changeover. When it proclaimed the end of 
socialism, a small fraction of the ruling class emanci- 
pated itself from the anachronistic duties that still 
bound it to the people. It took private control of 
what it already controlled in the name of “everyone.” 
In the factories, the joke went; “We pretend to work, 
and they pretend to pay us.” The oligarchy replied, 
“There’s no point, let’s stop pretending!” They ended 
up with the raw materials, industrial infrastructures, 
the military-industrial complex, the banks and the 
nightclubs. Everyone else got poverty or emigration. 
Just as no one in Andropov’s time believed in the 
USSR, no one in the meeting halls, workshops and 
offices believes in France today. “There’s no point,” 
respond the bosses and political leaders, who no 
longer even bother to smooth the edges of the “iron 
laws of the economy.” They strip factories in the 
middle of the night and announce the shutdown 


66 / The Coming Insurrection 



early next morning. They no longer hesitate to send in 
anti-terrorism units to shut down a strike, as was done 
with the ferries and the occupied recycling center in 
Rennes. The brutal activity of power today consists 
both in administering this ruin while at the same time 
establishing the framework for a “new economy. 


And yet we had gotten used to the economy. For gen- 
erations we were disciplined, pacified and made into 
subjects , productive by nature and content to con- 
sume. And suddenly everything that we were deter- 
mined to forget is revealed: that the economy is polit- 
ical. And that this politics is, today, a politics of 
selection within a humanity that has, largely become 
superfluous. From Colbert 2 to de Gaulle, by way of 
Napoleon III, the state has always treated the eco- 
nomic as political, as have the bourgeoisie (who prof- 
it from it) and the proletariat (who confront it). All 
that’s left is this strange, middling part of the popula- 
tion, the curious and powerless aggregate of those who 
take no sides: the petty bourgeoisie. They have 
always pretended to believe in the economy as a 
reality — because their neutrality is safe there. Small 
business owners, small bosses, minor bureaucrats, 
managers, professors, journalists, middlemen of 
every sort make up this non-class in France, this 


2. Jean-Baptiste Colbert served as the French minister of finance from 
1665 to 1683 under Louis XIV. 


Fifth Circle ,'67 



social gelatin composed of the mass of all those who 
just want to live their little private lives at a distance 
from history and its tumults. This swamp is predis- 
posed to be the champion of false consciousness, half- 
asleep and always ready to close its eyes on the war 
that rages all around it. Each clarification of a front in 
this war is thus accompanied in France by the inven- 
tion of some new fad. For the past ten years, it was 
ATT AC 3 and its improbable Tobin tax — a tax whose 
implementation would require nothing less than a 
global government — with its sympathy for the “real 
economy’’ as opposed to the financial markets, not to 
mention its touching nostalgia for the state. The 
comedy lasts only so long before turning into a mas- 
querade. And then another fad replaces it. So now we 
have “negative growth.”' 1 Whereas ATT AC tried to 
save economics as a science with its popular educa- 
tion courses, negative growth would preserve it as a 
morality. There is only one alternative to the coming 
apocalypse: reduce growth. Consume and produce 


3. Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of 
Citizens (ATTAC) is a non party political organization that advocates 
social democratic reforms, particularly the “Tobin tax” on interna- 
tional foreign exchange intended to curtail currency speculation and 
fond social policies. 

4. La dtcroissance ( negative growth) is a French left -ecological movement 
which advocates a reduction in consumption and production f or the sake 
of environmentalsustainability and an improvement in the quality of life. 


68 / The Coming Insurrection 



less. Become joyously frugal. Eat organic, ride your 
bike, stop smoking, and pay close attention to the 
products you buy. Be content with what’s strictly nec- 
essary. Voluntary simplicity. "Rediscover true wealth 
in the blossoming of convivial social relations in a 
healthy world.” "Don’t use up our natural capital.” 
Work toward a "healthy economy.” "No regulation 
through chaos.” “Avoid a social crisis that would 
threaten democracy and humanism.” Simply put: 
become economical. Go back to daddy’s economy, to 
the golden age of the petty bourgeoisie: the ’50s. 
"When an individual is frugal, property serves its 
function perfectly, which is to allow the individual 
to enjoy his or her own life sheltered from public 
existence, in the private sanctuary of his or her life.” 

A graphic designer wearing a handmade sweater is 
drinking a fruity cocktail with some friends on the 
terrace of an "ethnic” cafA They’re chatty and cor- 
dial, they joke around a bit, they make sure not to 
be too loud or too quiet, they smile at each other, a 
little blissfully: we are so civilized. Afterwards, some 
of them will go work in the neighborhood commu- 
nity garden, while others will dabble in pottery, 
some Zen Buddhism, or in the making of an ani- 
mated film. They find communion in the smug 
feeling that they constitute a new humanity, wiser 
and more refined than the previous one. And they 
are right. There is a curious agreement between 


Filth Circle / 69 



Apple and the negative growth movement about the 
civilization of the future. Some people’s idea of 
returning to the economy of yesteryear offers others 
the convenient screen behind which a great techno- 
logical leap forward can be launched. For in history 
there is no going back. Any exhortation to return to 
the past is only the expression of one form of con- 
sciousness of the present, and rarely the least modern. 

It is not by chance that negative growth is the banner 
of the dissident advertisers of the magazine Casseurs 
de Pub? The inventors of zero growth — the Club of 
Rome in 1972 — were themselves a group of indus- 
trialists and bureaucrats who relied on a research 
paper written by cyberneticians at MIT. 

This convergence is hardly a coincidence. It is 
part of the forced march towards a modernized 
economy. Capitalism got as much as it could from 
undoing all the old social ties, and it is now in the 
process of remaking itself by rebuilding these same 
ties on its own terms. Contemporary metropolitan 
social life is its incubator. In the same way, it ravaged 
the natural world and is now taken with the crazy 
notion of reconstituting nature as so many con- 
trolled environments, furnished with all the 
necessary sensors. This new humanity requires a 
new economy that would no longer be a separate 
sphere of existence but, rather, its very tissue, the raw 


5. A French equivalent of the magazine Adbusters. 


70 / The Coming Insurrection 



material of human relations. It requires a new defin- 
ition of work as work on oneself, a new definition of 
capital as human capital, a new idea of production as 
the production of relations, and consumption as the 
consumption of situations; and above all a new idea 
of value that would encompass all of the qualities of 
beings. This burgeoning “bioeconomy’ conceives 
the planet as a closed system to be managed and claims 
to establish the foundations for a science that would 
integrate all the parameters of life. Such a science 
could make us miss the good old days when unreli- 
able indices like GDP growth were supposed to 
measure the well-being of a people, but at least no 
one believed in them. 

“Revalorize the non-economic aspects of life” is 
the slogan shared by the negative growth movement 
and by capital’s reform program. Eco-villages, video- 
surveillance cameras, spirituality, biotechnologies 
and sociability all belong to the same “civilizational 
paradigm” now taking shape, that of a total economy 
rebuilt from the ground up. Its intellectual matrix 
is none other than cybernetics, the science of sys- 
tems — that is, the science of their control. In the 
17th century, in order to impose the economic sys- 
tem and its ethos of work and greed in a definitive 
way, it was necessary to confine and eliminate the 
whole seamy mass of layabouts, liars, witches, mad- 
men, scoundrels and all the other vagrant poor, a 
whole humanity whose very existence gave the lie to 


Fifth Crete / 71 



the order of interest and restraint. The new economy 
cannot be established without a similar selection of 
subjects and zones singled out for transformation. 
The chaos that we constantly hear about will either 
provide the opportunity for this selection, or for our 
victory over this odious project. 


72 / The Coming Insurrection 



Sixth Circle 


“THE ENVIRONMENT IS AN 
INDUSTRIAL CHALLENGE” 


Ecology is the discovery of the decade. For the last 
thirty years we’ve left it up to the environmentalists, 
joking about it on Sunday so that we can act con- 
cerned again on Monday. And now it’s caught up to 
us, invading the airwaves like a hit song in summer- 
time, because it’s 68 degrees in December. 

One quarter of the fish species have disappeared 
from the ocean. The rest won’t last much longer. 

Bird flu alert: we are given assurances that hun- 
dreds of thousands of migrating birds will be shot 
from the sky. 

Mercury levels in human breast milk are ten 
times higher than the legal level for cows. And these 
lips which swell up after I bite the apple — but it 
came from the farmer’s market. The simplest ges- 
tures have become toxic. One dies at the age of 35 
from “a prolonged illness” that’s to be managed just 
like one manages everything else. We should’ve seen 
it coming before we got to this place, to ward B of 
the palliative care center. 

We have to admit it: this whole “catastrophe,” 
which they so noisily inform us about, doesn’t really 


73 



touch us. At least not until we are hit by one of its 
foreseeable consequences. It may concern us, but it 
doesn’t touch us. And that is the real catastrophe. 

There is no "environmental catastrophe.” The 
catastrophe is the environment itself. The environment 
is what’s left to man after he’s lost everything. Those 
who live in a neighborhood, a street, a valley, a war 
zone, a workshop- — they don’t have an “environment;” 
they move through a world peopled by presences, 
dangers, friends, enemies, moments of life and death, 
all kinds of beings. Such a world has its own consis- 
tency, which varies according to the intensity and 
quality of the ties attaching us to all of these beings, to 
all of these places. It’s only we, the children of the final 
dispossession, exiles of the final hour — who come into 
the world in concrete cubes, pick our fruits at the 
supermarket, and watch for an echo of the world on 
television — only we get to have an environment. And 
there’s no one but us to witness our own annihilation, 
as if it were just a simple change of scenery, to get 
indignant about the latest nrovr: .s of the disaster, to 
patiently compile its encyclopedia. 

What has congealed as an environment is a relation- 
ship to the world based on management, which is to 
say, on estrangement. A relationship to the world 
wherein we’re not made up just as much of the 
rustling trees, the smell of frying oil in the building, 
running water, the hubbub of schoolrooms, the 


74 / The Coming Insurrection 



mugginess of summer evenings. A relationship to 
the world where there is me and then my environ- 
ment, surrounding me but never really constituting 
me. We have become neighbors in a planetary 
board meeting. It’s difficult to imagine a more 
complete hell. 

No material habitat has ever deserved the name 
"environment,” except perhaps the metropolis of 
today. The digitized voices making announcements, 
streetcars with such a 21st century whistle, bluish 
streetlamps shaped like giant matchsticks, pedestrians 
done up like failed fashion models, the silent rota- 
tion of a video surveillance camera, the lucid clicking 
of the subway turnstyles, supermarket checkouts, 
office time-clocks, the electronic ambiance of the 
cybercafe, the profusion of plasma screens, express 
lanes and latex. Never has a setting been so able to 
do without the souls traversing it. Never has a milieu 
been more automatic. Never has a context been so 
indifferent, and demanded in return — as the price of 
survival — such an equal indifference from us. Ulti- 
mately the environment is nothing more than the 
relationship to the world that is proper to the 
metropolis, and that projects itself onto everything 
that would escape it. 

The situation is like this: they hired our parents to 
destroy this world, and now they’d like to put us to 
work rebuilding it, and — to add insult to injury — at 


Sixth Circle / 75 



a profit. The morbid excitement that animates jour- 
nalists and advertisers these days as they report each 
new proof of global warming reveals the steely smile 
of the new green capitalism, in the making since the 
’70s, which we expected at the turn of the century 
but which never came. Well, here it is! It’s sustain- 
ability! Alternative solutions, that’s it too! The health 
of the planet demands it! No doubt about it any- 
more, it’s a green scene; the environment will be the 
pivot of the 21st century political economy. A new 
volley of “industrial solutions” comes with each 
new catastrophic possibility. 

The inventor of the H-bomb, Edward Teller, pro- 
poses shooting millions of tons of metallic dust into 
the stratosphere to stop global warming. NASA, 
frustrated at having to shelve its idea of an anti- 
missile shield in the museum of cold war horrors, 
suggests installing a gigantic mirror beyond the 
moon’s orbit to protect us from the sun’s now-fatal 
rays. Another vision of the future: a motorized 
humanity, driving on bio -ethanol from Sao Paulo to 
Stockholm; the dream of cereal growers the world 
over, for it only means converting all of the planet’s 
arable lands into soy and sugar beet fields. Eco- 
friendly cars, clean energy, and environmental 
consulting coexist painlessly with the latest Chanel 
ad in the pages of glossy magazines. 

We are told that the environment has the incom- 
parable merit of being the first truly global problem 


76 / The Coming Insurrection 



presented to humanity. A global problem , which is 
to say a problem that only those who are organized 
on a global level will be able to solve. And we know 
who they are. These are the very same groups that 
for close to a century have been the vanguard of 
disaster, and certainly intend to remain so, for the 
small price of a change of logo. That EDF 1 had the 
impudence to trot out its nuclear program as the 
new solution to the global energy crisis goes to show 
how much the new solutions resemble the old 
problems. 

From Secretaries of State to the backrooms of 
alternative cafes, concerns are always expressed in 
the same words, the same as they’ve always been. We 
have to get mobilized. This time it’s not to rebuild 
the country like in the post-war era, not for the 
Ethiopians like in the ’80s, not for employment like 
in the ’90s. No, this time it’s for the environment. It 
thanks you for your participation. Al Gore and neg- 
ative growth movement stand side by side with the 
eternal great souls of the Republic to do their part in 
reinvigorating the little people of the Left and the 
well-known idealism of youth. Voluntary austerity 
writ large on their banner, they work benevolently 
to get us ready for the “coming ecological state of 


L Electricity de France (EDF) is the main electricity generation and 
distribution company in France and one of the largest in the world, 
supplying most of its power from nuclear reactors. 


Sixth Circle / 77 



emergency.” The globular sticky mass of their guilt 
lands on our tired shoulders, pressuring us to culti- 
vate our garden, sort out our trash, and eco-compost 
the leftovers of this macabre feast. 

Managing the phasing out of nuclear power, 
excess C02 in the atmosphere, melting glaciers, hur- 
ricanes, epidemics, global overpopulation, erosion of 
the soil, mass extinction of living species. . . this will 
be our burden. They tell us, “everyone must do their 
part,” if we want to save our beautiful model of civi- 
lization. We have to consume a little less to be able to 
keep consumbig. We have to produce organically to 
keep producing. We have to control ourselves to go on 
controlling. This is the logic of a world straining to 
maintain itself while giving itself an air of historical 
rupture. This is how they would like to convince us 
to participate in the great industrial challenges of this 
century. And in our bewilderment we’re ready to leap 
into the arms of the very same ones who presided 
over the devastation, in the hope that they will get us 
out of it. 

Ecology isn’t simply the logic of a total economy; it’s 
the new morality of capital. The system’s internal 
state of crisis and the rigorous screening that’s under- 
way demand a new criterion in the name of which 
this screening and selection will be carried out. From 
one era to the next, the idea of virtue has never been 
anything but an invention of vice. Without ecology, 


78 / The Conning Insurrection 



how could we justify the existence of two different 
diets, one “healthy and organic” for the rich and 
their children, and the other notoriously toxic for 
the plebes, whose offspring are damned to obesity. 
The planetary hyper-bourgeoisie wouldn’t be able to 
make its normal lifestyle seem respectable if its latest 
whims weren’t so scrupulously “respectful of the 
environment.” Without ecology, nothing would 
have enough authority to gag every objection to the 
exorbitant progress of control. 

Tracking, transparency, certification, eco-taxes, 
environmental excellence, and the policing of water, 
all give us an idea of the coming state of ecological 
emergency. Everything is permitted to apower struc- 
ture that bases its authority in Nature, in health and 
in well-being. 

“Once the new economic and behavioral culture 
has become common practice, coercive measures 
will doubtless fall into disuse of their own accord.” 
You’d have to have all the ridiculous aplomb of a TV 
crusader to maintain such a frozen perspective and 
in the same breath incite us to feel sufficiently “sorry 
for the planet” to get mobilized, while remaining 
anesthetized enough to watch the whole thing with 
restraint and civility. The new green asceticism is 
precisely the self-control that is required of us all in 
order to negotiate a rescue operation where the sys- 
tem has taken itself hostage. Henceforth, it’s in the 
name of environmentalism that we must all tighten 


Sixth Circle / 79 



our belts, just as we did yesterday in the name of the 
economy. The roads could certainly be transformed 
into bicycle paths, we ourselves could perhaps, to a 
certain degree, be grateful one day for a guaranteed 
income, but only at the price of an entirely thera- 
peutic existence. Those who claim that generalized 
self-control will spare us from an environmental 
dictatorship are lying: the one will prepare the way 
for the other, and well end up with both. 

As long as there is Man and Environment, the 
police will be there between them. 

Everything about the environmentalists’ discourse 
must be turned upside-down. Where they talk of 
“catastrophes” to label the present system’s misman- 
agement of beings and things, we only see the cata- 
strophe of its all too perfect operation. The greatest 
wave of famine ever known in the tropics (1876- 
1879) coincided with a global drought, but more 
significantly, it also coincided with the apogee of col- 
onization. The destruction of the peasant’s world 
and of local alimentary practices meant the disap- 
pearance of the means for dealing with scarcity. 
More than the lack of water, it was the effect of the 
rapidly expanding colonial economy that littered the 
Tropics with millions of emaciated corpses. What is 
presented everywhere as an ecological catastrophe 
has never stopped being, above all, the manifestation 
of a disastrous relationship to the world. Inhabiting 


80 / The Coming Insurrection 



a nowhere makes us vulnerable to the slightest jolt in 
the system, to the slightest climactic risk. As the 
latest tsunami approached and the tourists continued 
to frolic in the waves, the islands’ hunter-gatherers 
rushed away from the coast, following the birds. 
Environmentalism’s present paradox is that under 
the pretext of saving the planet from desolation it 
merely saves the causes of its desolation. 

The normal functioning of the world serves to 
hide our state of truly catastrophic dispossession. 
What is called “catastrophe” is no more than the 
forced suspension of this state, one of those rare 
moments when we regain some sort of presence in 
the world. Let the petroleum reserves run out earlier 
than expected; let the international flows that regu- 
late the tempo of the metropolis be interrupted; let 
us suffer some great social disruption and some great 
“return to savagery of the population,” a “planetary 
threat,” the “end of civilization!” Whatever. Any loss 
of control would be preferable to all the crisis man- 
agement scenarios they envision. When this comes, 
the specialists in sustainable development won’t be 
the ones with the best advice. It’s within the mal- 
function and short-circuits of the system that we 
find the elements of a response whose logic would be 
to abolish the problems themselves. Among the 
signatory nations to the Kyoto Protocol, the only 
countries that have fulfilled their commitments, 
in spite of themselves, are Ukraine and Romania. 


Sixth Circle / 81 



Guess why. The most advanced experimentation 
with "organic” agriculture on a global level has taken 
place since 1989 on the island of Cuba. Guess why. 
And it’s along the African highways, and nowhere 
else, that auto mechanics has been elevated to a form 
of popular art. Guess how. 

What makes the crisis desirable is that in the cri- 
sis the environment ceases to be the environment. 
We are forced to reestablish contact, albeit a poten- 
tially fatal one, with what’s there, to rediscover the 
rhythms of reality. What surrounds us is no longer a 
landscape, a panorama, a theater, but something to 
inhabit, something we need to come to terms with, 
something we can learn from. We won’t let ourselves 
be led astray by the ones who’ve brought about the 
the "catastrophe.” Where the managers platonically 
discuss among themselves how they might decrease 
emissions “without breaking the bank,” the only 
realistic option we can see is to “break the bank” as 
soon as possible and, in the meantime, take advan- 
tage of every collapse in the system to increase our 
own strength. 

New Orleans, a few days after Hurricane Katrina. In 
this apocalyptic atmosphere, here and there, life is 
reorganizing itself. In the face of the inaction of the 
public authorities, who were too busy cleaning up the 
tourist areas of the French Quarter and protecting 
shops to help the poorer city dwellers, forgotten 


82 / The Conning Insurrection 



forms are reborn. In spite of occasionally strong- 
armed attempts to evacuate the area, in spite of white 
supremacist lynch mobs, a lot of people refused to 
leave the terrain. For the latter, who refused to be 
deported like “environmental refugees” all over the 
country, and for those who came from all around to 
join them in solidarity, responding to a call from a 
former Black Panther, self-organization came back to 
the fore. In a few weeks time, the Common Ground 
Clinic was set up . 2 From the very first days, this 
veritable "country hospital” provided free and effec- 
tive treatment to those who needed it, thanks to the 
constant influx of volunteers. For more than a year 
now, the clinic is still the base of a daily resistance to 
the clean-sweep operation of government bulldozers, 
which are trying to turn that part of the city into a 
pasture for property developers. Popular kitchens, 
supplies, street medicine, illegal takeovers, the con- 
struction of emergency housing, all this practical 
knowledge accumulated here and there in the course 


2. A certain distance leads to a certain obscurity. Common Ground has 
been criticized in North America for the feet that its activities were 
geared towards a return to normality — that is, to the normal func- 
tioning of things, In any case itclearly remains in the realm of classical 
polidcs. The founder of Common Ground, former Black Panther 
Malik Rahim, eventually used the project as part of his unsuccessful run 
for the US Congress in 2008. ft was later revealed that one of the main 
spokesmen for the project, Brandon Darby, was an FBI informant. 


Sixth Circle / 83 



of a life, has now found a space where it can be 
deployed. Far from the uniforms and sirens. 

Whoever knew the penniless joy of these New 
Orleans neighborhoods before the catastrophe, 
their defiance towards the state and the widespread 
practice of making do with what’s available wouldn’t 
be at all surprised by what became possible there. 
On the other hand, anyone trapped in the anemic 
and atomized everyday routine of our residential 
deserts might doubt that such determination could 
be found anywhere anymore. Reconnecting with 
such gestures, buried under years of normalized life, 
is the only practicable means of not sinking down 
with the world, while we dream of an age that is 
equal to our passions. 


84 / The Coming Insurrection 



Seventh Circle 


"WE ARE BUILDING A CIVILIZED SPACE HERE” 


The first global slaughter, which from 1914 to 1918 
did away with a large portion of the urban and rural 
proletariat, was waged in the name of freedom, 
democracy, and civilization. For the past five years, 
the so-called “war on terror” with its special opera- 
tions and targeted assassinations has been pursued in 
the name of these same values. Yet the resemblance 
stops there: at the level of appearances. The value of 
civilization is no longer so obvious that it can be 
brought to the natives as a package. Freedom is no 
longer a name scrawled on walls, for today it is always 
followed, as if by its shadow, with the word “securi- 
ty.” And it is well known that democracy can be dis- 
solved in pure and simple “emergency” edicts — for 
example, in the official reinstitution of torture in the 
US, or in France’s Perben II law. 1 

In a single century, freedom, democracy and 
civilization have reverted to the state of hypotheses. 
The leaders’ work from now on consists in shaping 


1. Perben II is a law introduced in France in 2004 that targets “organized 
crime" and “delinquency” and albws for sentencing without trial. 


85 



the material and moral as well as symbolic and social 
conditions in which these hypotheses can be more or 
less validated, in configuring spaces where they can 
seem to function. All means to these ends are accept- 
able, even the least democratic, the least civilized, the 
most repressive. It was a century in which democracy 
regularly presided over the birth of fascist regimes, 
civilization constantly rhymed — to the tune of 
Wagner or Iron Maiden — with extermination, and in 
which, one day in 1929, freedom showed its two 
faces: a banker throwing himself from a window and 
a family of workers dying of hunger. Since then — let’s 
say; since 1945 — it’s taken for granted that manipu- 
lating the masses, secret service operations, the 
restriction of public liberties, and the complete 
sovereignty of a wide array of police forces were 
appropriate ways to ensure democracy, freedom and 
civilization. At the final stage of this evolution, we see 
the first socialist mayor of Paris putting the finishing 
touches on urban pacification with a new police 
protocol for a poor neighborhood, announced with 
the following carefully chosen words: “We’re building 
a civilized space here.” There’s nothing more to say, 
everything has to be destroyed. 

Though it seems general in nature, the question of 
civilization is not at all a philosophical one. A civiliza- 
tion is not an abstraction hovering over life. It is what 
rules, takes possession of, colonizes the most banal, 


86 / The Coming Insurrection 



personal, daily existence. It’s what holds together that 
which is most intimate and most general. In France, 
civilization is inseparable from the state. The older 
and more powerful the state, the less it is a super- 
structure or exoskeleton of a society and the more it 
constitutes the subjectivities that people it. The 
French state is the very texture of French subjectivi- 
ties, the form assumed by the centuries-old castration 
of its subjects. Thus it should come as no surprise that 
in their deliriums psychiatric patients are always 
confusing themselves with political figures, that we 
agree that our leaders are the root of all our ills, that 
we like to grumble so much about them and that this 
grumbling is the consecration that crowns them as our 
masters. Here, politics is not considered something 
outside of us but part of ourselves. The life we invest in 
these figures is the same life that’s taken from us. 

If there is a French exception, this is why. Every- 
thing, even the global influence of French literature, 
is a result of this amputation. In France, literature 
is the prescribed space for the amusement of the 
castrated. It is the formal freedom conceded to those 
who cannot accommodate themselves to the noth- 
ingness of their real freedom. That’s what accounts 
for all the obscene winks exchanged, for centuries 
now, between the statesmen and men of letters in this 
country, as each gladly dons the other’s costume. 
That’s also why intellectuals here tend to talk so loud 
when they’re so meek, and why they always fail at the 


Seventh Circle / 87 



decisive moment, the only moment that would've 
given meaning to their existence, but that also 
would’ve had them banished from their profession. 

There exists a credible thesis that modern litera- 
ture was born with Baudelaire, Heine, and Flaubert 
as a repercussion of the state massacre of June 1848. 
It’s in the blood of the Parisian insurgents, against 
the silence surrounding the slaughter, that modern 
literary forms were born — spleen, ambivalence, 
fetishism of form, and morbid detachment. The 
neurotic affection that the French pledge to their 
Republic — in the name of which every smudge of 
ink assumes an air of dignity, and any pathetic hack 
is honored — underwrites the perpetual repression of 
its originary sacrifices. The June days of 1848 — 
1,500 dead in combat, thousands of summary 
executions of prisoners, and the Assembly welcoming 
the surrender of the last barricade with cries of 
“Long Live the Republic!” — and the Bloody Week 
of 1871 are birthmarks no surgery can hide. 

In 1945, Kojeve wrote: "The “official” political ideal 
of France and of the French is today still that of the 
nation-State, of the ‘one and indivisible Republic.’ On 
the other hand, in the depths of its soul, the country 
understands the inadequacy of this ideal, of the 
political anachronism of the strictly “national” idea. 
This feeling has admittedly not yet reached the level 
of a clear and distinct idea: The country cannot, and 


88 / The Coming Insurrection 



will not yet express it openly. Moreover, for the very 
reason of the unparalleled brilliance of its national 
past, it is especially difficult for Prance to recognize 
clearly and to accept frankly the fact of the end of 
the ‘national’ period of History and to understand 
all of its consequences. It is hard for a country which 
created, out of nothing, the ideological framework of 
nationalism and exported it to the whole world to 
recognize that all that remains of it now is a docu- 
ment to be filed in the historical archives.’ 

This question of the nation-state and its mourning 
is at the heart of what for the past half-century can 
only be called the French malaise. We politely give the 
name of “alternation” to this twitchy indecision, 
this pendulum-like oscillation from left to right, then 
right to left; like a manic phase after a depressive one 
that is then followed by another, or the way a com- 
pletely rhetorical critique of individualism uneasily 
co-exists with the most ferocious cynicism, or the 
greatest generosity with an aversion to crowds. Since 
1945, this malaise, which seems to have dissipated 
only during the insurrectionary fervor of May 68, has 
continually worsened. The era of states, nations and 
republics is coming to an end, and the country that 
sacrificed all its vitality to these forms remains 
stunned by that fact. The trouble caused by Jospin’s 
simple sentence “The state can’t do everything” 
allows us to imagine the reaction when it becomes 
clear that the state can no longer do anything at all. 


Seventh Circle / 89 



The feeling that we’ve been tricked is like a wound 
that is becoming increasingly infected. It’s the source 
of the latent rage that just about anything will set off 
these days. The fact that in this country the obituary 
of the age of nations has yet to be written is the key to 
the French anachronism, and to the revolutionary 
possibilities France still has in store. 

Whatever their outcome may be, the role of the 
next presidential elections will be to signal the end of 
French illusions and to burst the historical bubble in 
which we are living — and which makes possible 
events like the anti-CPE movement, that was puzzled 
over by other countries as if it were some bad dream 
that escaped from the ’70s. That’s why, deep down, 
no one wants these elections. France is indeed the red 
lantern of the western zone. 2 

Today the West is the GI who dashes into Fallujah on 
an Ml Abrams tank, listening to heavy metal at top 
volume. It’s the tourist lost on the Mongolian plains, 
mocked by all, who clutches his credit card as his 
only lifeline. It’s the CEO who swears by the game 
Go. It’s the young girl who looks for happiness in 
clothes, guys, and moisturizing creams. It’s the Swiss 
human rights activist who travels to the four corners 
of the earth to show solidarity with all the world’s 
rebels — provided they’ve been defeated. It’s the 


2. The “red lantern*’ is the last place finisher in the Tour de France. 


90 / The Coming Insurrection 



Spaniard who could care less about political freedom 
now that he’s been granted sexual freedom. It’s the 
art lover who wants us to be awestruck before the 
“modern genius” of a century of artists, from surre- 
alism to Viennese actionism, all competing to see 
who could best spit in the face of civilization. It’s 
the cyberneticist who’s found a realistic theory of 
consciousness in Buddhism and the quantum 
physicist who’s hoping that dabbling in Hindu 
metaphysics will inspire new scientific discoveries. 

The West is a civilization that has survived all the 
prophecies of its collapse with a singular stratagem. 
Just as the bourgeoisie had to deny itself zzj a class in 
order to permit the bourgeoisification of society as a 
whole, from the worker to the baron; just as capital 
had to sacrifice itself as a wage relation in order to 
impose itself as a social relation — becoming cultural 
capital and health capital in addition to finance 
capital; just as Christianity had to sacrifice itself as a 
religion in order to survive as an affective structure — 
as a vague injunction to humility, compassion, and 
weakness; so the West has sacrificed itself as a particular 
civilization in order to impose itself as a universal cul- 
ture. The operation can be summarized like this: an 
entity in its death throes sacrifices itself as a con- 
tent in order to survive as a form. 

The fragmented individual survives as a form 
thanks to the “spiritual” technologies of counseling. 
Patriarchy survives by attributing to women all the 


Seventh Circle / 91 



worst attributes of men: willfulness, self-control, 
insensitivity. A disintegrated society survives by 
propagating an epidemic of sociability and enter- 
tainment. So it goes with all the great, outmoded 
fictions of the West maintaining themselves through 
artifices that contradict these fictions point by point. 

There is no "dash of civilizations.” There is a dinically 
dead civilization kept alive by all sorts of life-support 
machines that spread a peculiar plague into the 
planet’s atmosphere. At this point it can no longer 
believe in a single one of its own “values,” and any 
affirmation of them is considered an impudent act, a 
provocation that should and must be taken apart, 
deconstructed ', and returned to a state of doubt. Today 
Western imperialism is the imperialism of relativism, 
of the "It all depends on your point of view”; it’s the 
eye-rolling or the wounded indignation at anyone 
who’s stupid, primitive, or presumptuous enough to 
still bdieve in something, to affirm anything at all. 
You can see the dogmatism of constant questioning 
give its complicit wink of the eye everywhere in the 
universities and among the literary intdligentsias. No 
critique is too radical among postmodernist thinkers, 
as long as it maintains this total absence of certitude. 
A century ago, scandal was identified with any par- 
ticularly unruly and raucous negation, while today 
it’s found in any affirmation that fails to tremble. 


92 / The Coming Insurrection 



No social order can base itself for long on the prin- 
ciple that nothing is true. Yet it must be made secure. 
Applying the concept of "security” to everything 
these days is the expression of a project to securely 
fasten onto places, behaviors, and even people them- 
selves, an ideal order to which they are no longer 
ready to submit. Saying "nothing is true” says nothing 
about the world but everything about the Western 
concept of truth. For the West, truth is not an 
attribute of beings or things, but of their representa- 
tion. A representation that conforms to experience is 
held to be true. Science is, in the last analysis, this 
empire of universal verification. Since all human 
behavior, from the most ordinary to the most 
learned, is based on a foundation of unevenly for- 
mulated facts, and since all practices start from a 
point where things and their representations can no 
longer be distinguished, a measure of truth that the 
Western concept excludes enters into every life. We 
talk in the West about “real people,” but only in 
order to mock these simpletons. This is why 
Westerners have always been thought of as liars and 
hypocrites by the people they’ve colonized. This is 
why they’re envied for what they have , for their 
technological development, but never for what they 
are , for which they are rightly held in contempt. 
Sade, Nietzsche and Artaud wouldn’t be taught in 
schools if the kind of truth mentioned above was not 
discredited in advance. Containing all affirmations 


Seventh Circle / 93 



and deactivating all certainties as they irresistibly 
come to light — such is the long labor of the Western 
intellect. The police and philosophy are two conver- 
gent, if formally distinct, means to this end. 

Of course, this imperialism of the relative finds a 
suitable enemy in every empty dogmatism, in 
whatever form of Marxist-Leninism, Salifism, or 
Neo-Nazism: anyone who, like Westerners, mistakes 
provocation for affirmation. 

At this juncture, any strictly social contestation that 
refuses to see that what we’re facing is not the crisis 
of a society but the extinction of a civilization 
becomes an accomplice in its perpetuation. It’s even 
become a contemporary strategy to critique this 
society in the vain hope of saving the civilization. 

So we have a corpse on our backs, but we won’t be 
able to shake it off just like that. Nothing is to be 
expected from the end of civilization, from its clin- 
ical death. Such a thing can only be of interest to 
historians. It’s a fact, and it must be translated into a 
decision. Facts can be conjured away, but decision is 
political. To decide for the death of civilization, then 
to work out how it will happen: only decision will rid 
us of the corpse. 


94 / The Coming Insurrection 



GET GOING! 


We can no longer even see how an insurrection 
might begin. Sixty years of pacification and con- 
tainment of historical upheavals, sixty years of 
democratic anesthesia and the management of 
events, have dulled our perception of the real, our 
sense of the war in progress. We need to start by 
recovering this perception. 

It’s useless to get indignant about openly unconsti- 
tutional laws such as Perben II. It’s futile to legally 
protest the complete implosion of the legal frame- 
work. We have to get organized. 

It’s useless to get involved in this or that citizens’ 
group, in this or that dead-end of the far left, or in 
the latest “community effort.” Every organization 
that claims to contest the present order mimics the 
form, mores and language of miniature states. Thus 
far, every impulse to "do politics differently” has 
only contributed to the indefinite spread of the 
state’s tentacles. 


95 



It’s useless to react to the news of the day; instead we 
should understand each report as a maneuver in a 
hostile field of strategies to be decoded, operations 
designed to provoke a specific reaction. It’s these 
operations themselves that should be taken as the 
real information contained in these pieces of news. 

It’s useless to wait — for a breakthrough, for the revo- 
lution, the nuclear apocalypse or a social movement. 
To go on waiting is madness. The catastrophe is not 
coming, it is here. We are already situated withm the 
collapse of a civilization. It is within this reality that 
we must choose sides. 

To no longer wait is, in one way or another, to enter 
into the logic of insurrection. It is once again to hear 
the slight but always present trembling of terror in the 
voices of our leaders. Because governing has never 
been anything other than postponing by a thousand 
subterfuges the moment when the crowd will string 
you up, and every act of government is nothing but a 
way of not losing control of the population. 

We’re setting out from a point of extreme isolation, of 
extreme weakness. An insurrectional process must be 
built from the ground up. Nothing appears less likely 
than an insurrection, but nothing is more necessary. 


96/ The Coming Insurrection 



FIND EACH OTHER 


Attach yourself to what you feel to be true. 

Begin there. 

An encounter, a discovery, a vast wave of strikes, an 
earthquake: every event produces truth by changing 
our way of being in the world. Conversely, any 
observation that leaves us indifferent, doesn’t affect 
us, doesn’t commit us to anything, no longer 
deserves the name truth. There’s a truth beneath 
every gesture, every practice, every relationship, and 
every situation. We usually just avoid it, manage it, 
which produces the madness of so many in our era. 
In reality, everything involves everything else. The 
feeling that one is living a lie is still a truth. It is a 
matter of not letting it go, of starting from there. A 
truth isn’t a view on the world but what binds us to 
it in an irreducible way. A truth isn’t something we 
hold but something that carries us. It makes and 
unmakes me, constitutes and undoes me as an indi- 
vidual; it distances me from many and brings me 
closer to those who also experience it. An isolated 
being who holds fast to a truth will inevitably meet 


97 



others like her. In fact, every insurrectional process 
starts from a truth that we refuse to give up. During 
the ’80s in Hamburg, a few inhabitants of a squatted 
house decided that from then on they would only be 
evicted over their dead bodies. A neighborhood was 
besieged by tanks and helicopters, with days of street 
battles, huge demonstrations — and a mayor who, 
finally, capitulated. In 1940, Georges Guingouin, 
the "first French resistance fighter,” started with 
nothing but the certainty of his refusal of the Nazi 
occupation. At that time, to the Communist Party, 
he was nothing but a "madman living in the woods,” 
until there were 20,000 madmen living in the 
woods, and Limoges was liberated. 

Don’t back away from what is political 
in friendship. 

We’ve been given a neutral idea of friendship, 
understood as a pure affection with no consequences. 
But all affinity is affinity within a common truth. 
Every encounter is an encounter within a common 
affirmation, even the affirmation of destruction. No 
bonds are innocent in an age when holding onto 
something and refusing to let go usually leads to 
unemployment, where you have to lie to work, and 
you have to keep on working in order to continue 
lying. People who swear by quantum physics and 
pursue its consequences in all domains are no less 


98 / The Coining Insurrection 



bound, politically than comrades fighting against a 
multinational agribusiness. They will all be led, 
sooner or later, to defection and to combat. 

The pioneers of the workers’ movement were 
able to find each other in the workshop, then in the 
factory. They had the strike to show their numbers 
and unmask the scabs. They had the wage relation, 
pitting the party of capital against the party of 
labor, on which they could draw the lines of soli- 
darity and of battle on a global scale. We have the 
whole of social space in which to find each other. 
We have everyday insubordination for showing our 
numbers and unmasking cowards. We have our 
hostility to this civilization for drawing lines of 
solidarity and of battle on a global scale. 

Expect nothing from organizations. 

Beware of all existing social milieus, 
and above all, don’t become one. 

It’s not uncommon, in the course of a significant 
breaking of the social bond, to cross paths with 
organizations — political, labor, humanitarian, com- 
munity associations, etc. Among their members, 
one may even find individuals who are sincere — if 
a little desperate — who are enthusiastic — if a little 
conniving. Organizations are attractive due to their 
apparent consistency — they have a history, a head 
office, a name, resources, a leader, a strategy and a 


Find Each Other / 99 



discourse. They are nonetheless empty structures, 
which, in spite of their grand origins, can never be 
filled. In all their affairs, at every level, these orga- 
nizations are concerned above all with their own 
survival as organizations, and little else. Their 
repeated betrayals have often alienated the commit- 
ment of their own rank and file. And this is why you 
can, on occasion, run into worthy beings within 
them. But the promise of the encounter can only be 
realized outside the organization and, unavoidably, 
at odds with it. 

Far more dreadful are social milieus., with their 
supple texture, their gossip, and their informal 
hierarchies. Flee all milieus. Each and every milieu is 
oriented towards the neutralization of some truth. 
Literary circles exist to smother the clarity of writ- 
ing. Anarchist milieus to blunt the directness of 
direct action. Scientific milieus to withhold the 
implications of their research from the majority of 
people today. Sport milieus to contain in their gyms 
the various forms of life they should create. Partic- 
ularly to be avoided are the cultural and activist 
circles. They are the old people’s homes where all 
revolutionary desires traditionally go to die. The 
task of cultural circles is to spot nascent intensities 
and to explain away the sense of whatever it is you’re 
doing, while the task of activist circles is to sap your 
energy for doing it. Activist milieus spread their 
diffuse web throughout the French territory, and are 


100 / The Coming Insurrection 



encountered on the path of every revolutionary 
development. They offer nothing but the story of 
their many defeats and the bitterness these have 
produced. Their exhaustion has made them inca- 
pable of seizing the possibilities of the present. 
Besides, to nurture their wretched passivity they 
talk far too much and this makes them unreliable 
when it comes to the police. Just as it’s useless to 
expect anything from them, it’s stupid to be disap- 
pointed by their sclerosis. It’s best to just abandon 
this dead weight. 

All milieus are counter-revolutionary because 
they are only concerned with the preservation of 
their sad comfort. 

Form communes. 

Communes come into being when people find each 
other, get on with each other, and decide on a 
common path. The commune is perhaps what gets 
decided at the very moment when we would nor- 
mally part ways. It’s the joy of an encounter that 
survives its expected end. It’s what makes us say 
“we,” and makes that an event. What’s strange isn’t 
that people who are attuned to each other form 
communes, but that they remain separated. Why 
shouldn’t communes proliferate everywhere? In 
every factory, every street, every village, every school. 
At long last, the reign of the base committees! 


Find Each Other / 101 



Communes that accept being what they are, where 
they are. And if possible, a multiplicity of communes 
that will displace the institutions of society: family, 
school, union, sports club, etc. Communes that aren’t 
afraid, beyond their specifically political activities, to 
organize themselves for the material and moral sur- 
vival of each of their members and of all those 
around them who remain adrift. Communes that 
would not define themselves — as collectives tend to 
do- — by what’s inside and what’s outside them, but by 
the density of the ties at their core. Not by their 
membership, but by the spirit that animates them. 

A commune forms every time a few people, freed 
of their individual straitjackets, decide to rely only 
on themselves and measure their strength against 
reality. Every wildcat strike is a commune; every 
building occupied collectively and on a clear basis is 
a commune. The action committees of 1968 were 
communes, as were the slave maroons in the United 
States, or Radio Alice in Bologna in 1977. Every 
commune seeks to be its own base. It seeks to dis- 
solve the question of needs. It seeks to break all 
economic dependency and all political subjugation; 
it degenerates into a milieu the moment it loses con- 
tact with the truths on which it is founded. There 
are all kinds of communes that wait neither for the 
numbers nor the means to get organized, and even 
less for the “right moment” — which never arrives. 


102 / The Coming Insurrection 



GET ORGANIZED 


Get organized, in order to no longer have to work. 

We know that individuals are possessed of so little life 
that they have to earn a living , to sell their time in 
exchange for a modicum of social existence. Personal 
time for social existence: such is work, such is the 
market. From the outset, the time of the commune 
eludes work, it doesn’t function according to that 
scheme — it prefers others. Groups of Argentine 
piqtieteros collectively extort a sort of local welfare 
conditioned by a few hours of work; they don’t clock 
their hours, they put their benefits in common and 
acquire clothing workshops, a bakery, putting in 
place the gardens that thw need. 

The commune needs money, but not because we 
need to earn a living. All communes have their black 
markets. There are plenty of hustles. Aside from 
welfare, there are various benefits, disability money, 
accumulated student aid, subsidies drawn off ficti- 
tious childbirths, all kinds of trafficking, and so 
many other means that arise with every mutation of 
control. It’s not for us to defend them, or to install 


103 



ourselves in these temporary shelters or to preserve 
them as a privilege for those in the know. The impor- 
tant thing is to cultivate and spread this necessary 
disposition towards fraud, and to share its innova- 
tions. For communes, the question of work is only 
posed in relation to other already existing incomes. 
And we shouldn’t forget all the useful knowledge that 
can be acquired through certain trades, professions 
and well-positioned jobs. 

The exigency of the commune is to free up the most 
time for the most people. And we’re not just talking 
about the number of hours free of any wage-labor 
exploitation. Liberated time doesn’t mean a vacation. 
Vacant time, dead time, the time of emptiness and the 
fear of emptiness — this is the time of work. There will 
be no more time to fill, but a liberation of energy that 
no "time’ contains; lines that take shape, that accen- 
tuate each other, that we can follow at our leisure, to 
their ends, until we see them cross with others. 

Plunder, cultivate, fabricate. 

Some former MetalEurop employees become bank 
robbers rather than prison guards. Some EDF employees 
show friends and family how to rig the electricity 
meters. Commodities that "fell off the back of a truck’ 
are sold left and right. A world that so openly proclaims 
its cynicism can’t expect much loyalty from proletarians. 


104 / The Coming Insurrection 



On the one hand, a commune can’t bank on- the 
“welfare state” being around forever, and on the 
other, it can’t count on living for long off shoplifting, 
nighttime dumpster diving at supermarkets or in the 
warehouses of the industrial zones, misdirecting 
government subsidies, ripping off insurance companies 
and other frauds, in a word: plunder. So it has to con- 
sider how to continually increase the level and scope 
of its self-organization. Nothing would be more 
logical than using the lathes, milling machines, and 
photocopiers sold at a discount after a factory closure 
to support a conspiracy against commodity society. 

The feeling of imminent collapse is everywhere so 
strong these days that it would be hard to enumerate 
all of the current experiments in matters of construc- 
tion, energy, materials, illegality or agriculture. There’s 
a wholij set of skills and techniques just waiting to be 
plundered and ripped from their humanistic, street- 
culture, or eco-friendly trappings. Yet this group of 
experiments is but one part of all of the intuitions, 
the know-how, and the ingenuity found in slums that 
will have to be deployed if we intend to repopulate 
the metropolitan desert and ensure the viability of 
an insurrection beyond its first stages. 

How will we communicate and move about during 
a total interruption of the flows? How will we restore 
food production in rural areas to the point where 
they can once again support the population density 
that they had sixty years ago? How will we transform 


Get Organized / 105 



concrete spaces into urban vegetable gardens, as 
Cuba has done in order to withstand both the 
American embargo and the liquidation of the USSR? 

Training and learning. 

What are we left with, having used up most of the 
leisure authorized by market democracy? What was it 
thatmadeusgo jogging on a Sunday morning? What 
keeps all these karate fanatics, these DIY, fishing, or 
mycology freaks going? What, if not the need to fill 
up some totally idle time, to reconstitute their labor 
power or “health capital”? Most recreational activities 
could easily be stripped of their absurdity and 
become something else. Boxing has not always been 
limited to the staging of spectacular matches. At the 
beginning of the 20th century, as China was carved 
up by hordes of colonists and starved by long 
droughts, hundreds of thousands of its poor peasants 
organized themselves into countless open-air boxing 
clubs, in order to take back what the colonists and 
the rich had taken from them. This was the Boxer 
Rebellion. It’s never too early to learn and practice 
what less pacified, less predictable times might 
require of us. Our dependence on the metropolis — 
on its medicine, its agriculture, its police — is so 
great at present that we can’t attack it without 
putting ourselves in danger. An unspoken awareness 
of this vulnerability accounts for the spontaneous 


106/ The Conning Insurrection 



self-limitation of today’s social movements, and 
explains our fear of crises and our desire for “security;” 
It’s for this reason that strikes have usually traded the 
prospect of revolution for a return to normalcy. 
Escaping this fate calls for a long and consistent 
process of apprenticeship, and for multiple, massive 
experiments. It’s a question of knowing how to fight, 
to pick locks, to set broken bones and treat sicknesses; 
how to build a pirate radio transmitter; how to set up 
street kitchens; how to aim straight; how to gather 
together scattered knowledge and set up wartime 
agronomics; understand plankton biology; soil com- 
position; study the way plants interact; get to know 
possible uses for and connections with our immediate 
environment as well as the limits we can’t go beyond 
without exhausting it. We must start today, in prepa- 
ration for the days when we’ll need more than just a 
symbolic portion of our nourishment and care. 

Create territories. Multiply zones of opacity. 

More and more reformists today agree that with “the 
approach of peak oil,” and in order to "reduce green- 
house gas emissions,” we will need to “relocalize the 
economy,” encourage regional supply lines, small 
distribution circuits, renounce easy access to imports 
from far away, etc. What they forget is that what 
characterizes everything that’s done in a local econo- 
my is that it’s done under the table, in an “informal” 


Get Organized / 107 



way; that this simple ecological measure of relocalizing 
the economy implies nothing less than total freedom 
from state control. Or else total submission to it. 

Today’s territory is the product of many centuries 
of police operations. People have been pushed out of 
their fields, then their streets, then their neighbor- 
hoods, and finally from the hallways of their 
buildings, in the demented hope of containing all life 
between the four sweating walls of privacy. The terri- 
torial question isn’t the same for us as it is for the 
state. For us it’s not about possessing territory. Rather, 
it’s a matter of increasing the density of the com- 
munes, of circulation, and of solidarities to the point 
that the territory becomes unreadable, opaque to all 
authority. We don’t want to occupy the territory, we 
want to be the territory. 

Every practice brings a territory into existence — a 
dealing territory, or a hunting territory; a territory of 
child’s play, of lovers, of a riot; a territory of farmers, 
ornithologists, or flaneurs. The rule is simple: the 
more territories there are superimposed on a given 
zone, the more circulation there is between them, the 
harder it will be for power to get a handle on them. 
Bistros, print shops, sports facilities, wastelands, sec- 
ond-hand book stalls, building rooftops, improvised 
street markets, kebab shops and garages can all easily 
be used for purposes other than their official ones if 
enough complicities come together in them. Local 
self-organization superimposes its own geography 


108/ The Conning Insurrection 



over the state cartography, scrambling and blurring 
it: it produces its own secession. 

Travel. Open our own lines of communication. 

The principle of communes is not to counter the 
metropolis and its mobility with local slowness and 
rootedness. The expansive movement of commune 
formation should surreptitiously overtake the move- 
ment of the metropolis. We don’t have to reject the 
possibilities of travel and communication that the 
commercial infrastructure offers; we just have to 
know their limits. We just have to be prudent, 
innocuous. Visits in person are more secure, leave no 
trace, and forge much more consistent connections 
than any list of contacts on the internet. The privi- 
lege many of us enjoy of being able to “circulate 
freely’ from one end of the continent to the other, 
and even across the world without too much trouble, 
is not a negligible asset when it comes to communi- 
cation between pockets of conspiracy. One of the 
charms of the metropolis is that it allows Americans, 
Greeks, Mexicans, and Germans to meet furtively in 
Paris for the time it takes to discuss strategy. 

Constant movement between friendly communes 
is one of the things that keeps them from drying up 
and from the inevitability of abandonment. Wel- 
coming comrades, keeping abreast of their initiatives, 
reflecting on their experiences and making use of 


Get Organized / 1 09 



new techniques they’ve developed does more good 
for a commune than sterile self-examinations behind 
closed doors. It would be a mistake to underestimate 
how much can be decisively worked out over the 
course of evenings spent comparing views on the war 
in progress. 

Remove all obstacles, one by one. 

It’s well known that the streets teem with incivilities. 
Between what they are and what they should be 
stands the centripetal force of the police, doing their 
best to restore order to them; and on the other side 
there’s us, the opposite centrifugal movement. We 
can’t help but delight in the fits of anger and disorder 
wherever they erupt. It’s not surprising that these 
national festivals that arent really celebrating anything 
anymore are now systematically going bad Whether 
sparkling or dilapidated, the urban fixtures — but 
where do they begin? where do they end?- — embody 
our common dispossession. Persevering in their 
nothingness, they ask for nothing more than to 
return to that state for good. Take a look at what 
surrounds us: all this will have its final hour. The 
metropolis suddenly takes on an air of nostalgia, like 
a field of ruins. 

All the incivilities of the streets should become 
methodical and systematic, converging in a diffuse, 
effective guerrilla war that restores us to our 


1 1 0 / T h e Coming Insurrection 



ungovernability, our primordial unruliness. It’s 
disconcerting to some that this same lack of disci- 
pline figures so prominently among the recognized 
military virtues of resistance fighters. In fact though, 
rage and politics should never have been separated. 
Without the first, the second is lost in discourse; 
without the second the first exhausts itself in howls. 
When words like “ enrages ’ and “exaltes” resurface in 
politics they’re always greeted with warning shots . 1 

As for methods, let’s adopt the following principle 
from sabotage: a minimum of risk in taking the action, 
a minimum of time, and maximum damage. As for 
strategy, we will remember that an obstacle that has 
been cleared away, leaving a liberated but uninhabited 
space, is easily replaced by another obstacle, one that 
offers more resistance and is harder to attack. 

No need to dwell too long on the three types of 
workers’ sabotage: reducing the speed of work, from 
‘easy does it” pacing to the “work-to-rule” strike; 
breaking the machines, or hindering their function; 
and divulging company secrets. Broadened to the 
dimensions of the whole social factory, the principles 
of sabotage can be applied to both production and 
circulation. The technical infrastructure of the 
metropolis is vulnerable. Its flows amount to more 
than the transportation of people and commodities. 


1. The enragA and exaltfs were both radical groups in the French revolution. 


Get Organized /111 



Information and energy circulate via wire networks, 
fibers and channels, and these can be attacked. 
Nowadays sabotaging the social machine with any 
real effect involves reappropriating and reinventing 
the ways of interrupting its networks. How can a 
TGV line or an electrical network be rendered useless? 
How does one find the weak points in computer 
networks, or scramble radio waves and fill screens 
with white noise? 

As for serious obstacles, it’s wrong to imagine 
them invulnerable to all destruction. The prome- 
thean element in all of this boils down to a certain 
use of fire, all blind voluntarism aside. In 356 BC, 
Erostratus burned down the temple of Artemis, one 
of the seven wonders of the world. In our time of 
utter decadence, the only thing imposing about 
temples is the dismal truth that they are already ruins. 

Annihilating this nothingness is hardly a sad task. It 
gives action a fresh demeanor. Everything suddenly 
coalesces and makes sense — space, time, friendship. 
We must use all means at our disposal and rethink 
their uses — we ourselves being means. Perhaps, in the 
misery of the present, “fucking it all up” will serve — 
not without reason — as the last collective seduction. 

Flee visibility. Turn anonymity into an offensive position. 

In a demonstration, a union member tears the mask 
off of an anonymous person who has just broken a 


112/ The Coming Insurrection 



window. “Take responsibility for what you’re doing 
instead of hiding yourself.” But to be visible is to be 
exposed, that is to say above all, vulnerable. When 
leftists everywhere continually make their cause 
more “visible” — whether that of the homeless, of 
women, or of undocumented immigrants — in hopes 
that it will get dealt with, they’re doing exactly the 
contrary of what must be done. Not making our- 
selves visible, but instead turning the anonymity to 
which we’ve been relegated to our advantage, and 
through conspiracy, nocturnal or faceless actions, 
creating an invulnerable position of attack. The fires 
of November 2005 offer a model for this. No leader, 
no demands, no organization, but words, gestures, 
complicities. To be socially nothing is not a humili- 
ating condition, the source of some tragic lack of 
recognition — from whom do we seek recogni- 
tion? — but is on the contrary the condition for max- 
imum freedom of action. Not claiming your illegal 
actions, only attaching to them some fictional 
acronym — we still remember the ephemeral BAFT 
(. Brigade Anti-Flic des Tarteretsf — is a way to pre- 
serve that freedom. Quite obviously, one of the 
regime’s first defensive maneuvers was the creation 
of a “ banlieue ” subject, to be treated as the author of 


2. Tarter&s is a banlieue in the Essonne region of France. The “Tarterets 
Anti-Cop Brigade” was a name that was employed to daim responsibility 
for actions against police in this area in the ’80s. 


Get Organized / 1 1 3 



the “riots of November 2005.” Just looking at the 
faces on some of this society’s somebodies illustrates 
why there’s such joy in being nobody. 

Visibility must be avoided. But a force that 
gathers in the shadows can’t avoid it forever. Our 
appearance as a force must be reserved for the oppor- 
tune moment. The longer we avoid visibility, the 
stronger we’ll be when it catches up with us. And 
once we become visible our days will be numbered. 
Either we will be in a position to break its hold in 
short order, or we’ll be crushed in no time. 

Organize self-defense. 

We live under an occupation, under police occupa- 
tion. Undocumented immigrants are rounded up in 
the middle of the street, unmarked police cars patrol 
the boulevards, metropolitan districts are pacified 
with techniques forged in the colonies, the Minister 
of the Interior makes declarations of war on “gangs” 
that remind us of the Algerian war — we are reminded 
of it every day. These are reasons enough to no 
longer let ourselves be beaten down, reasons enough 
to organize our self-defense. 

To the extent that it grows and radiates, a com- 
mune begins to see the operations of power target 
that which constitutes it These counterattacks take 
the form of seduction, of recuperation, and as a last 
resort, brute force. For a commune, self-defense must 


114/ The Coming Insurrection 



be a collective fact, as much practical as theoretical. 
Preventing an arrest, gathering quickly and in large 
numbers against eviction attempts and sheltering one 
of our own, will not be superfluous reflexes in 
coming times. We cannot ceaselessly reconstruct our 
bases from scratch. Let’s stop denouncing repression 
and instead prepare to confront it. 

It’s not a simple affair, for we expect a surge in 
police work being done by the population itself — 
everything from snitching to occasional participation 
in citizens’ militias. The police forces blend in with 
the crowd. The ubiquitous model of police interven- 
tion, even in riot situations, is now the cop in civilian 
clothes. The effectiveness of the police during the last 
anti-CPE demonstrations was a result of plainclothes 
off icers mixing among us and waiting for an incident 
before revealing who they are: gas, nightsticks, tazers, 
detainment; all in strict coordination with demon- 
stration stewards. The mere possibility of their 
presence was enough to create suspicion amongst the 
demonstrators — who’s who? — and to paralyze action. 
If we agree that a demonstration is not merely a way 
to stand and be counted but a means of action, we 
have to equip ourselves with better resources to 
unmask plainclothes officers, chase them off, and if 
need be snatch back those they’re trying to arrest. 

The police are not invincible in the streets, they 
simply have the means to organize, train, and con- 
tinually test new weapons. Our weapons, on the 


Gel Organized / 1 1 5 



other hand, are always rudimentary, cobbled- 
together, and often improvised on the spot. Ours 
certainly can’t hope to match theirs in firepower, 
but can be used to hold them at a distance, redirect 
attention, exercise psychological pressure or force 
passage and gain ground by surprise. None of the 
innovations in urban anti-guerilla warfare that are 
being taught in the French police academies are 
adequate to respond rapidly to a moving multiplici- 
ty that can strike a number of places at once and that 
tries to always keep the initiative. 

Communes are obviously vulnerable to surveillance 
and police investigations, to policing technologies 
and intelligence gathering. The waves of arrests of 
anarchists in Italy and of eco-warriors in the US 
were made possible by wiretapping. Everyone 
detained by the police now has his or her DNA sam- 
pled and added to an ever more complete profile. A 
squatter from Barcelona was caught because he left 
fingerprints on fliers he was distributing. Tracking 
methods are becoming better and better, mostly 
through biometric techniques. And if the distribu- 
tion of electronic identity cards is instituted, our 
task will just be that much more difficult. The Paris 
Commune found a partial solution to the keeping of 
records: they burned down City Hall, destroying all 
the public records and vital statistics. We still need 
to find the means to permanently destroy computer- 
ized databases. 


116/ The Conning Insurrection 



INSURRECTION 


The commune is the basic unit of partisan reality. 
An insurrectional surge may be nothing more than 
a multiplication of communes, their coming into 
contact and forming of ties. As events unfold, 
communes will either merge into larger entities or 
fragment. The difference between a band of brothers 
and sisters bound “for life” and the gathering of 
many groups, committees and gangs for organizing 
the supply and self-defense of a neighborhood or 
even a region in revolt, is only a difference of scale, 
they are all communes. 

A commune tends by its nature towards self- 
sufficiency and considers money, internally, as 
something foolish and ultimately out of place. The 
power of money is to connect those who are 
unconnected, to link strangers as strangers and thus, 
by making everything equivalent, to put everything 
into circulation. 

The cost of money’s capacity to connect every- 
thing is the superficiality of the connection, where 
deception is the rule. Distrust is the basis of the credit 
relation The reign of money is, therefore, always the 


117 



reign of control. The practical abolition of money 
will happen only with the extension of communes. 
Communes must be extended while making sure 
they do not exceed a certain size, beyond which they 
lose touch with themselves and give rise, almost with- 
out fail, to a dominant caste. It would be preferable 
for the commune to split up and to spread in that 
way, avoiding such an unfortunate outcome. 

The uprising of Algerian youth that erupted 
across all of Kabylia in the spring of 2001 managed 
to take over almost the entire territory, attacking 
police stations, courthouses and every representation 
of the state, generalizing the revolt to the point of 
compelling the unilateral retreat of the forces of order 
and physically preventing the elections. The move- 
ment’s strength was in the diffuse complementarity 
of its components — only partially represented by the 
interminable and hopelessly male-dominated village 
assemblies and other popular committees. The 
“communes” of this still-simmering insurrection had 
many faces: the young hotheads in helmets lobbing 
gas canisters at the riot police from the rooftop of a 
building inTizi Ouzou; the wry smile of an old resis- 
tance fighter draped in his burnous; the spirit of the 
women in the mountain villages, stubbornly carrying 
on with the traditional farming, without which the 
blockades of the region’s economy would never have 
been as constant and systematic as they were. 


118/ The Coming Insurrection 



Make the most of ever)’ crisis. 

“So it must be said, too, that we won’t be able to treat 
the entire French population. Choices will have to be 
made.” This is how a virology expert sums up, in a 
September 7, 2005 article in Le Monde , what would 
happen in the event of a bird flu pandemic. "Terrorist 
threats,” “natural disasters,” “virus warnings,” “social 
movements” and "urban violence” are, for society’s 
managers, so many moments of instability where 
they reinforce their power, by the selection of those 
who please them and the elimination of those who 
make things difficult. Clearly these are, in turn, 
opportunities for other forces to consolidate or 
strengthen one another as they take the other side. 

The interruption of the flow of commodities, the 
suspension of normality (it’s sufficient to see how 
social life returns in a building suddenly deprived of 
electricity to imagine what life could become in a city 
deprived of everything) and police control liberate 
potentialities for self-organization unthinkable in 
other circumstances. People are not blind to this. The 
revolutionary workers’ movement understood it well, 
and took advantage of the crises of the bourgeois 
economy to gather strength. Today, Islamic parties 
are strongest when they’ve been able to intelligently 
compensate for the weakness of the state— as 
when they provided aid after the earthquake in 
Boumerdes, Algeria, or in the daily assistance offered 


Insurrection / 1 1 9 



the population of southern Lebanon after it was 
ravaged by the Israeli army. 

As we mentioned above, the devastation of New 
Orleans by hurricane Katrina gave a certain fringe of 
the North American anarchist movement the oppor- 
tunity to achieve an unfamiliar cohesion by rallying 
all those who refused to be forcefully evacuated. 
Street kitchens require building up provisions before- 
hand; emergency medical aid requires the acquisition 
of necessary knowledge and materials, as does the 
setting up of pirate radios. The political richness of 
such experiences is assured by the joy they contain, 
the way they transcend individual stoicism, and their 
manifestation of a tangible reality that escapes the 
daily ambience of order and work. 

In a country like France, where radioactive clouds 
stop at the border and where we aren’t afraid to build 
a cancer research center on the former site of a nitro- 
gen fertilizer factory that has been condemned by 
the EU’s industrial safety agency, we should count 
less on “natural” crises than on social ones. It is 
usually up to the social movements to interrupt the 
normal course of the disaster. Of course, in recent 
years the various strikes were primarily opportunities 
for the government and corporate management to 
test their ability to maintain a larger and larger 
“minimum service,” to the point of reducing the 
work stoppage to a purely symbolic dimension, 
causing little more damage than a snowstorm or a 


1 20 / The Coming Insurrection 



suicide on the railroad tracks. By going against 
established activist practices through the systematic 
occupation of institutions and obstinate blockading, 
the high-school students’ struggle of 2005 and the 
struggle against the CPE-law reminded us of the 
ability of large movements to cause trouble and carry 
out diffuse offensives. In all the affinity groups they 
spawned and left in their wake, we glimpsed the 
conditions that allow social movements to become a 
locus for the emergence of new communes. 

Sabotage every representative authority. 

Spread the talk 
Abolish general assemblies. 

The first obstacle every social movement faces, long 
before the police proper, are the unions and the entire 
micro-bureaucracy whose job it is to control the 
struggle. Communes, collectives and gangs are natu- 
rally distrustful of these structures. That’s why the 
parabureaucrats have for the past twenty years been 
inventing coordination committees and spokes coun- 
cils that seem more innocent because they lack an 
established label, but are in fact the ideal terrain for 
their maneuvers. When a stray collective makes an 
attempt at autonomy, they won’t be satisfied until 
they’ve drained the attempt of all content by pre- 
venting any real question from being addressed. They 
get fierce and worked up not out of passion for 


Insurrection / 1 21 



debate but out of a passion for shutting it down. And 
when their dogged defense of apathy finally does the 
collective in, they explain its failure by citing a lack of 
political consciousness. It must be noted that in 
France the militant youth are well versed in the art of 
political manipulation, thanks largely to the frenzied 
activity of various Trotskyist factions. They could not 
be expected to learn the lesson of the conflagration of 
November 2005: that coordinations are unnecessary 
where coordination exists, organizations aren’t needed 
when people organize themselves. 

Another reflex is to call a general assembly at the 
slightest sign of movement, and vote. This is a mis- 
take. The business of voting and deciding a winner is 
enough to turn the assembly into a nightmare, into a 
theater where all the various little pretenders to 
power confront each other. Here we suffer from the 
bad example of bourgeois parliaments. An assembly 
is not a place for decisions but for talk, for free speech 
exercised without a goal. 

The need to assemble is as constant among 
humans as the necessity of making decisions is rare. 
Assembling corresponds to the joy of feeling a com- 
mon power. Decisions are vital only in emergency 
situations, where the exercise of democracy is already 
compromised. The rest of the time, “the democratic 
character of decision making” is only a problem for 
the fanatics of process. It’s not a matter of critiquing 
assemblies or abandoning them, but of liberating the 


1 22 / The Coming Insurrection 



speech, gestures, and interplay of beings that take 
place within them. We just have to see that each 
person comes to an assembly not only with a point 
of view or a motion, but with desires, attachments, 
capacities, forces, sadnesses and a certain disposition 
toward others, an openness. If we manage to set aside 
the fantasy of a General Assembly and replace it with 
an assembly of presences, if we manage to foil the con- 
stantly renewed temptation of hegemony, if we stop 
making the decision our final aim, then there is a 
chance for a kind of critical mass, one of those 
moments of collective crystallization where a deci- 
sion suddenly takes hold of beings, completely or 
only in part. 

The same goes for deciding on actions. By starting 
from the principle that “the action in question should 
govern the assembly’s agenda” we make both vigorous 
debate and effective action impossible. A large assem- 
bly made up of people who don’t know each other is 
obliged to call on action specialists, that is, to aban- 
don action for the sake of its control. On the one 
hand, people with mandates are by definition hin- 
dered in their actions, on the other hand, nothing 
hinders them from deceiving everyone. 

There’s no ideal form of action. What’s essential 
is that action assume a certain form, that it give rise 
to a form instead of having one imposed on it. This 
presupposes a shared political and geographical posi- 
tion — like the sections of the Paris Commune during 


Insurrection / 1 23 



the French Revolution — as well as the circulation of 
a shared knowledge. As for deciding on actions, the 
principle could be as follows: each person should do 
their own reconnaissance, the information would 
then be put together, and the decision will occur to 
us rather than being made by us. The circulation of 
knowledge cancels hierarchy; it equalizes by raising 
up. Proliferating horizontal communication is also 
the best form of coordination among different com- 
munes, the best way to put an end to hegemony. 

Block the economy, but measure our blockmg power 
by our level of self-organization. 

At the end of June 2006 in the State of Oaxaca, the 
occupations of city halls multiply, and insurgents 
occupy public buildings. In certain communes, 
mayors are kicked out, official vehicles are requisi- 
tioned. A month later, access is cut off to certain 
hotels and tourist compounds. Mexico’s Minister of 
Tourism speaks of a disaster “comparable to hurri- 
cane Wilma.” A few years earlier, blockades had 
become the main form of action of the revolt in 
Argentina, with different local groups helping each 
other by blocking this or that major road, and con- 
tinually threatening, through their joint action, to 
paralyze the entire country if their demands were 
not met. For years such threats have been a powerful 
lever for railway workers, truck drivers, and electrical 


124 / The Coming Insutrection 



and gas supply workers. The movement against the 
CPE in France did not hesitate to block train sta- 
tions, ring roads, factories, highways, supermarkets 
and even airports. In Rennes, only three hundred 
people were needed to shut down the main access 
road to the town for hours and cause a 40-kilometer 
long traffic jam. 

Jam everything — this will be the first reflex of all 
those who rebel against the present order. In a 
delocalized economy where companies function 
according to "just-in-time” production, where value 
derives from connectedness to the network, where 
the highways are links in the chain of dematerialized 
production which moves from subcontractor to sub- 
contractor and from there to another factory for 
assembly, to block circulation is to block production 
as well. 

But a blockade is only as effective as the insur- 
gents’ capacity to supply themselves and to 
communicate, as effective as the self-organization of 
the different communes. How will we feed ourselves 
once everything is paralyzed? Looting stores, as in 
Argentina, has its limits; as large as the temples of 
consumption are, they are not bottomless pantries. 
Acquiring the skills to provide, over time, for one’s 
own basic subsistence implies appropriating the 
necessary means of its production. And in this 
regard, it seems pointless to wait any longer. Letting 
two percent of the population produce the food of all 


Insorection / 1 25 



the others — the situation today — is both a historical 
and a strategic anomaly. 

Liberate territory from police occupation. 

Avoid direct confrontation, if possible. 

“This business shows that we are not dealing with 
young people making social demands, but with indi- 
viduals who are declaring war on the Republic,” 
noted a lucid cop about recent clashes. The push to 
liberate territory from police occupation is already 
underway, and can count on the endless reserves of 
resentment that the forces of order have marshaled 
against it. Even the "social movements” are gradually 
being seduced by the riots, just like the festive crowds 
in Rennes who fought the cops every Thursday night 
in 2005, or those in Barcelona who destroyed a shop- 
ping district during a botellion. The movement 
against the CPE witnessed the recurrent return of the 
Molotov cocktail. But on this front certain banlieues 
remain unsurpassed. Specifically, when it comes to 
the technique they’ve been perfecting for some time 
now: the surprise attack. Like the one on October 13, 
2006 in Epinay. A private-security team headed out 
after getting a report of something stolen from a car. 
When they arrived, one of the security guards “found 
himself blocked by two vehicles parked diagonally 
across the street and by more than thirty people car- 
rying metal bars and pistols who threw stones at the 


1 26 / The Conning Insurreclion 



vehicle and used tear gas against the police officers.” 
On a smaller scale, think of all the local police sta- 
tions attacked in the night: broken windows, burnt- 
out cop cars. 

One of the results of these recent movements is 
the understanding that henceforth a real demon- 
stration has to be “wild,” not declared in advance 
to the police. Having the choice of terrain, we can, 
like the Black Bloc of Genoa in 2001, bypass the 
red zones and avoid direct confrontation. By 
choosing our own trajectory, we can lead the cops, 
including unionist and pacifist ones, rather than 
being herded by them. In Genoa we saw a thou- 
sand determined people push back entire buses full 
of carabinieri , then set their vehicles on fire. The 
important thing is not to be better armed but to 
take the initiative. Courage is nothing, confidence 
in your own courage is everything. Having the 
initiative helps. 

Everything points, nonetheless, toward a con- 
ception of direct confrontations as that which pins 
down opposing forces, buying us time and allowing 
us to attack elsewhere — even nearby. The fact that 
we cannot prevent a confrontation from occurring 
doesn’t prevent us from making it into a simple 
diversion. Even more than to actions, we must 
commit ourselves to their coordination. Harassing 
the police means that by forcing them to be every- 
where they can no longer be effective anywhere. 


Insurrection / 1 27 



Every act of harassment revives this truth, spoken 
in 1 842: “The life of the police agent is painful; his 
position in society is as humiliating and despised as 
crime itself. . . Shame and infamy encircle him from 
all sides, society expels him, isolates him as a pariah, 
society spits out its disdain for the police agent along 
with his pay, without remorse, without regrets, with- 
out pity... The police badge that he carries in his 
pocket documents his shame.” On November 21, 
2006, firemen demonstrating in Paris attacked the 
riot police with hammers and injured fifteen of 
them. This by way of a reminder that wanting to 
“protect and serve” can never be an excuse for joining 
the police. 

Take up arms. Do everything possible to make their use 
unnecessary. Against the army the only victory is political. 

There is no such thing as a peaceful insurrection. 
Weapons are necessary; it’s a question of doing every- 
thing possible to make using them unnecessary. An 
insurrection is more about taking up arms and main- 
taining an “armed presence” than it is about armed 
struggle. We need to distinguish clearly between 
being armed and the use of arms. Weapons are a con- 
stant in revolutionary situations, but their use is 
infrequent and rarely decisive at key turning points: 
August 10th 1792, March 18th 1871, October 1917. 
When power is in the gutter, it’s enough to walk over it. 


1 28 / The Coming Insurrection 



Because of the distance that separates us from 
them, weapons have taken on a kind of double 
character of fascination and disgust that can be 
overcome only by handling them. An authentic 
pacifism cannot mean refusing weapons, but only 
refusing to use them. Pacifism without being able to 
fire a shot is nothing but the theoretical formulation 
of impotence. Such a priori pacifism is a kind of 
preventive disarmament, a pure police operation. In 
reality, the question of pacifism is serious only for 
those who have the ability to open fire. In this case, 
pacifism becomes a sign of power, since it’s only in 
an extreme position of strength that we are freed 
from the need to fire. 

From a strategic point of view, indirect, asymmet- 
rical action seems the most effective kind, the one 
best suited to our time: you don’t attack an occupying 
army frontally. That said, the prospect of Iraq-style 
urban guerilla warfare, dragging on with no possi- 
bility of taking the offensive, is more to be feared 
than to be desired. The militarization of civil war is 
the defeat of insurrection. The Reds had their vic- 
tory in 1921, but the Russian Revolution was 
already lost. 

We must consider two kinds of state reaction. 
One openly hostile, one more sly and democratic. 
The first calls for our out-and-out destruction, the 
second, a subtle but implacable hostility, seeks only 
to recruit us. We can be defeated both by dictatorship 


Insurrection / 1 29 



and by being reduced to opposing only dictatorship. 
Defeat consists as much in losing the war as in losing 
the choice of which war to wage. Both are possible, 
as was proven by Spain in 1 936: the revolutionaries 
there were defeated twice-over, by fascism and by 
the Republic. 

When things get serious, the army occupies the 
terrain. Whether or not it engages in combat is less 
certain. That would require that the state be com- 
mitted to a bloodbath, which for now is no more 
than a threat, a bit like the threat of using nuclear 
weapons for the last fifty years. Though it has been 
wounded for a long while, the beast of the state is 
still dangerous. A massive crowd would be needed to 
challenge the army, invading its ranks and fraternizing 
with the soldiers. We need a March 18th, 1871. 
When the army is in the street, we have an insurrec- 
tionary situation. Once the army engages, the 
outcome is precipitated. Everyone finds themselves 
forced to take sides, to choose between anarchy and 
the fear of anarchy. An insurrection triumphs as a 
political force. It is not impossible to defeat an 
army politically. 

Depose authorities at a local level. 

The goal of any insurrection is to become irre- 
versible. It becomes irreversible when you’ve defeated 
both authority and the need for authority, property 


1 30 / The Coming InsuiTection 



and the taste for appropriation, hegemony and the 
desire for hegemony. That is why the insurrectionary 
process carries within itself the form of its victory, or 
that of its defeat. Destruction has never been enough 
to make things irreversible. What matters is how it’s 
done. There are ways of destroying that unfailingly 
provoke the return of what has been crushed. 
Whoever wastes their energy on the corpse of an 
order can be sure that this will arouse the desire for 
vengeance. Thus, wherever the economy is blocked 
and the police are neutralized, it is important to 
invest as little pathos as possible in overthrowing the 
authorities. They must be deposed with the most 
scrupulous indifference and derision. 

In times like these, the end of centralized revolu- 
tions reflects the decentralization of power. Winter 
Palaces still exist but they have been relegated to 
assaults by tourists rather than revolutionary hordes. 
Today it is possible to take over Paris, Rome, or 
Buenos Aires without it being a decisive victory. 
Taking over Rungis would certainly be more effective 
than taking over the Elysee Palace. Power is no longer 
concentrated in one point in the world; it is the 
world itself, its flows and its avenues, its people and 
its norms, its codes and its technologies. Power is the 
organization of the metropolis itself It is the impec- 
cable totality of the world of the commodity at. each 
of its points. Anyone who defeats it locally sends a 
planetary shock wave through its networks. The riots 


Insurrection / 1 31 



that began in Clichy-sous-Bois filled more than one 
American household with joy, while the insurgents of 
Oaxaca found accomplices right in the heart of Paris. 
For France, the loss of centralized power signifies the 
end of Paris as the center of revolutionary activity. 
Every new movement since the strikes of 1995 has 
confirmed this. It’s no longer in Paris that the most 
daring and consistent actions are carried out. To put 
it blundy, Paris now stands out only as a target for 
raids, as a pure terrain to be plundered and ravaged. 
Brief and brutal incursions from the outside strike at 
the metropolitan flows at their point of maximum 
density. Rage streaks across this desert of fake abun- 
dance, then vanishes. A day will come when this 
capital and its horrible concretion of power will lie in 
majestic ruins, but it will be at the end of a process 
that will be far more advanced everywhere else. 


1 32 / The Coming Insurrection 



ALL power to the communes! 




In the subway, tlxre’s no longer any trace of the screen of 
embarrassment that normally impedes the gestures of the 
passengers. Strangers make conversation without making 
passes. A band of comrades conferring on a street corner. 
Much larger assemblies on the boulevards, absorbed in dis- 
cussions. Surprise attacks mounted in city after city, day 
after day. A new military barracks has been sacked and 
burned to the ground. The evicted residents of a building 
have stopped negotiating with the mayor’s office; t/xy set- 
tle in. A company manager is inspired to blow away a 
handful of his colleagues in the middle of a meeting. 
There's been a leak of files containing tlx personal addresses 
of all tlx cops, together with those of prison officials, 
causing an unprecedented wave of sudden relocations. We 
carry our surplus goods into the old village bar and grocery 
store, and take what we lack. Some of us stay long enough 
to discuss the general situation and figure out the hard- 
ware we need for the machine shop. Tlx radio keeps tlx 
insurgents informed of the retreat of the government forces. 
A rocket has just breached a wall of the Clairvaux prison. 
Impossible to say if it has been months or years since the 
"events" began. And the prime minister seems very alone in 
his appeals for calm. 


135 





It’s useless to wait— for a breakthrough, for the 
revolution, the nuclear apocalypse or a social 
movement. To go on waiting is madness. The 
catastrophe is not coming, it is here. We are 
already situated within the collapse of a civilization. 
It is within this reality that we must choose sides. 


Semiotext(e) 

distributed by The MIT Press 
ISBN-13: 978-1-58435-080-4